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Types of Child Custody

If you’re a parent, one of the questions you may have during your divorce is about child custody. What type of custody arrangement will be best for your kids? This blog post will help to answer that question by describing the four most common types of child custody arrangements. Remember, though, that every situation is unique, and you should speak to an attorney to get specific advice for your case. 

Parenting is one of the most important jobs a person can do. With that in mind, it’s essential to know all about child custody to make decisions about your parenting plan and keep your child safe. You need to be aware of a few types of child custody. 


Sole custody

Sole custody refers to the parent with whom the child primarily lives. The other parent will have visitation rights and can make decisions about the child’s education, health care, and religious training.

Although the exact terms used vary by state, in general, these are some of the rights that fall under sole physical custody:

  • Make decisions regarding where your children will attend school.
  • Determine which doctor your children see for medical care (with some exceptions).
  • Choose any church or religious institution for your family’s participation.


Joint Custody

Joint custody is when both parents make important decisions about the child. It can be either physical or legal, and if a parent has joint legal custody, that means they have the right to make decisions about the child.

What are some examples of what you would decide on with your ex?

  • You can agree on who will enroll your child in which school and how often you’ll switch off taking them there.
  • You can decide which one of you will attend parent-teacher conferences and report back on how they went.
  • You can agree on how much time each parent spends with their kids every week (and where).


Legal Custody

Legal custody is the right to make important decisions about a child’s life. It can be shared with the other parent or sole. As long as both parents have legal custody, they must agree on significant issues that impact the child’s welfare (i.e., religion, education, etc.). However, if one parent has sole legal custody and the other has visitation rights or “parenting time,” this doesn’t apply to them because they’re not making significant decisions for their children at all times during their parenting periods (unless there are special circumstances).

As far as what type of joint custody you have: shared legal custody means both parents have equal decision-making power and responsibility for raising your kids together; joint physical custody means each parent gets physical possession of the child roughly half of each year; split legal/physical custody means that one parent has sole parental responsibility over some categories while another parent has full responsibility over others. The court will decide whether it makes sense to grant both fathers or mothers joint decision-making power over certain areas before deciding which one should retain primary authority over those issues instead.”


Physical Custody

Physical custody means where the child will live. It can be with one parent or split between two parents and alternate every week or month.

Here are some examples of physical custody arrangements:

  • Sole parental decision-making and primary residence: This is the most common form of physical custody. Both parents have equal rights to decide about their child’s education, medical care, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, and other aspects of their life. In this scenario, one parent has a primary residence (the children live with that parent most of the time) while the other parent has visitation rights (to see their children).
  • Joint legal decision-making but no primary residence: Like above but without any designated residency for either party, both parents are considered equal caregivers who make significant decisions together regarding the welfare of their kids.


Knowing the types of child custody can help you decide your parenting plan

Here are some other types of child custody. Cases like these are not all the same so the court can give you a “combined” parenting plan:

  • Sole Physical Custody – One parent is solely responsible for making decisions regarding a minor child’s daily care, control, and upbringing. The other parent may contact the child at determined times or activities. If a court gives sole physical custody, then it is likely that one parent will receive sole legal custody as well.
  • Joint Physical Custody – Both parents share equal time with their children during their time together which could include weekdays and/or weekends, depending on what works best for both parents and children. You do not need to live close to each other for this type of custody to happen. However, there should be an agreement between both parties as to how much time each parent will spend with their children before moving forward with joint physical custody arrangements, such as who picks up or drops off kids first, etc.
  • Split Parenting Plan – When a divorce occurs, both parents must develop an agreed-upon plan called “split parenting plans,” where each parent takes turns caring for kids while retaining certain rights.



Educating yourself on the different types of custody and what each one means for your case is essential if you are going through a custody battle. Custody can be a complex issue, so seeking legal help is recommended. The attorneys at The Law Office of Shamika have years of experience helping parents win child custody cases. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn more about your options.

Attorney Shamika T. Askew

I'm the founder and Managing Attorney of The Law Office of Shamika T. Askew. I'm licensed to practice law in all Florida State Courts and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. I'm also licensed to practice law in Lansing, MI. I have years of experience helping people with family law, probate and personal injury