Determining child custody

By Mark Smith

If you are a parent who is getting divorced, your most important decisions concern your children: who they will live with and what contact they will have with their other parent.

When a judge awards child custody they will consider what is in the best interests of your child. The law determines child custody as follows:

  • Sole custody: Awarded to one parent only.
  • Joint custody: Awarded to both parents.
  • Legal custody: Who makes the big decisions for your child.
  • Physical custody: Who your child lives with.

 The judge must make decisions about legal custody and physical custody. Either can be sole or joint.

Legal custody: Normally, this is awarded jointly to both parents. The rare occasions that a judge gives sole custody, thus removing the other parent’s rights to make decisions for their child, is when the court decides one parent is not fit to parent.

Physical custody: Joint physical custody used to be rare; courts could not fathom a child having two homes. However, times have changed, and joint physical custody is now more common—if it works for the child. If you or your partner move out of state, it may not be feasible.

When determining child custody, things such as visitation rights and schedules must also be resolved. What the court wants to see is a stable future planned out for your child. Hiring a family lawyer can ease the process for you and your child.