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The Differences Between Sole and Joint Custody

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2017 | Child Custody, Divorce, Family Law


At Saunders Law Group, we understand the many challenges that people face when it comes to divorce, separations, and other family law matters. We have helped countless people in the Polk County area deal with complicated legal issues surrounding child custody and visitation rights.

We’d like to go over some of the basics of child custody right now so you understand what various terms mean and what is at stake for your child or your children.

Understanding Legal and Physical Custody

Apart from joint and sole custody, there are two other kinds of custody to note that are important to consider. They are legal custody and physical custody.

  • Legal Custody – Legal custody refers to the parent who is able to make decisions about the child’s upbringing and well-being.
  • Physical Custody – Physical custody refers to the child actually living with a parent.

Joint Custody of a Child

Joint custody refers to cases in which both parents have both legal and physical custody of their child or children. Both parents thus maintain the ability to live with their child/children based on a schedule and to make decisions about the upbringing of their child/children.

This is a common arrangement in many separations and divorces, and many couples are able to make arrangements that work well and are fair given their circumstances. The amount of legal and physical custody may vary from couple to couple based on the nature of their divorce or separation.

Sole Custody of a Child

Sole custody of a child means that only one parent has both physical and legal custody. The other parent (the non-custodial parent) is not allowed to make upbringing decisions and may be denied physical custody as well. Visitation rights may be granted under special circumstances, such as proper supervision.

Sole custody is less common than joint custody, and is typically only considered when one of the parents demonstrates a lack of ability to raise and protect a child in a safe environment. This is a common type of custody in divorces or separations that involve abuse and neglect.

The Best Interests of a Child

In all child custody cases, the primary concern is what choices are in a child’s best interests. The wording is vague, but it ultimately means that the decisions regarding custody should be made in order for the child or children to grow up in a nurturing and healthy environment that helps them grow and flourish.

Negotiating Custody and Visitation

Emotions can run high when children are involved in divorces or separations. Even when the split is otherwise amicable, disagreements over custody can lead to hardships and hurt feelings. This is why negotiating child custody can be one of the more difficult aspects of getting a divorce, even if it’s in everyone’s best interests.

How a Divorce Attorney Can Help

Skilled divorce attorneys can offer much needed insight and perspective, as well as professional detachment. These can all prove invaluable as you make your way through the legal process and determine what is best for your child/children and their future.

Learn More About Child Custody

For more information about child custody and matters related to divorce and separation, be sure to contact our team of family law attorneys today. The lawyers at Saunders Law Group will listen to you carefully and help you make sound choices that keep your child’s future in mind.


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