The type of child custody arrangement that may be ordered in a custody dispute is an important, if not the most important, concern for many separated and divorcing co-parents. During a divorce proceeding the parents of shared children in the marriage have the ability to agree on their own child custody arrangement through negotiation and compromise with one another. If agreement between the two parties is not possible then the parents must file a child custody action and leave the decision of the custody arrangement for their children to the court. A court will use the best interests of the child standard to decide and order the child custody arrangement.
Legal custody of a child is the ability of a parent or another person to make important decisions for the child. Legal custody of a child does not include the ability to make minor day-to-day decisions for the child but rather the ability of a parent or the parents jointly to make important and major life decisions for the child. Legal custody may be held solely by one parent or jointly between the two parents. Often the court will allocate legal custody jointly between the two parents, provided that it is in the best interests of the child.
The individual with physical custody of a child is the person that is giving the day to day physical care of the child. Physical custody may also be held solely by one parent or shared jointly between the two parents. Joint physical custody is defined as the parents sharing approximately the same amount of time with the child. A joint physical custody arrangement may consist of the child alternating weeks between each parent’s household, splitting time with each parent throughout the week and numerous other joint arrangements. A joint physical custody arrangement may also consider alternating holidays, alternating weekends and summer vacations. Arrangements for joint physical custody may be crafted in a multitude of ways, reflect numerous schedules and take into account the factors for the best interests of the child.
Visitation by each parent is also an important consideration by the court in the determination of a custody arrangement in sole and joint physical custody. Visitation may be supervised or unsupervised. As technology advances visitation becomes more complex as electronic communication becomes a viable and desirable option for visitation.When compromise cannot be reached by the parents of a child a court must use the best interests standard in order to craft a child custody arrangement that will fit the best interest of that particular child. The legal custody of a child gives a parent or the parents jointly the ability to make major decisions for the child. Physical custody reflects the current care and day-to-day placement of the child and it may either be sole or joint. Child custody arrangements are often unpredictable and a reflection of an individual child and the unique circumstances of each case.