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What forms of child custody are there?

That may seem like a somewhat silly question to ask, because some people may assume child custody only comes in one form: either a parent has custody or they don't. But in actuality, child custody has many different forms, and the ultimate agreement can be modified with different provisions and rules.

There are four types of child custody, with these types split into two different sets:

  • Legal and Physical custody. Legal custody means that a parent can make life decisions for the child, such as how they are treated medically and what school they go to. Physical custody means that the parent has say over where the child lives (in other words, the child lives with the parent that has physical custody.
  • Sole or Joint custody. These two forms of custody modify the legal or physical custody arrangement. Sole custody is rare due to the fact that one parent would have to prove that the other parent is unfit to, well, be a parent. If you are awarded sole custody, it means the other parent has no say over legal or physical custody. That belongs to you, and you alone. Joint custody means you and your ex-spouse share the legal or physical custody duties.

These forms of custody can be mixed and matched. For example, the parents could have joint legal custody over a child even if one parent has sole physical custody. In any child custody case, though, it is imperative for the divorced parents to consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "The Various Types of Child Custody," Accessed Dec. 7, 2015

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