Family Law: Different Types of Child Custody

When two people decide to get a divorce, things can get pretty messy, not only emotionally, but legally, as well. The division of assets and separation of a household, however, are nothing compared to the anguish of trying to sort out the custody of the couples’ children. And there are several legal parameters in the field of family law pertaining to types of child custody. This can be more than a little confusing for parents trying to sort out how they’re going to split time with their kids, and even more so if they cannot agree. For this reason it’s important to understand what the different types of child custody are and what they mean for your family.

  1. Physical custody. This is the type of custody that most parents are initially concerned with because it relates to where children will live. Physical custody governs the actual locations where children will reside, and it may be with one parent or the other, or it may be split between more than one residence, either equally or in favor of one location.
  2. Legal custody. Once parents have squared away the issue of physical custody, legal custody must be addressed, and this concerns the ability to make decisions that will affect the lives of the children involved. Ideally, parents should have equal rights when it comes to legal custody, working together to determine where kids will attend school, making medical decisions (and splitting costs) as necessary, and of course, determining what city the children will live in. Shared legal custody ensures that one parent can’t decide to move out of state with the kids, for example, without the consent of the other parent. In most cases, joint legal custody is a given unless one parent waves legal rights or is proven to be unfit to make decisions regarding the lives of the children.
  3. Sole custody. This is a form of physical or legal custody (or both) by which one parent is given preferential rights when it comes to the living situation of the children and all decisions pertaining to their lives. In some cases, visitation rights are granted to the other parent to ensure that he/she is allowed to see children regularly, but this is not always the case and it often depends upon the situation that led to granting one parent sole custody in the first place.
  4. Joint custody. This is probably the most common type of child custody settlement, by which parents are granted equal rights for physical and/or legal custody. In most cases this is best for everyone involved, including both parents and children. But it might not be so easy to get to this agreement. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse is filing for sole custody, you may have to turn to the Law Offices of James S. Cunha or an expert attorney in your area in order to ensure that your divorce proceedings don’t end with you losing access to your children.
  5. Legal guardianship. Although this form of custody rarely plays a role in divorce proceedings, it is another type of legal child custody that parents should know about because it could come into play if one or both parents suffer a medical emergency, a criminal infraction, incarceration, death, or some other circumstance that makes it impossible for them to attend to the needs of their kids. If you want to make sure your children have a home to go to with people that you trust to raise them in the event that you are unable to do so, then it behooves you to make arrangements for legal guardianship in the event of death or being deemed unfit to care for your kids. Many parents make such stipulations in a final will and testament, and it’s something you should consider sooner rather than later.

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