Physical Custody

Child custody arrangements and parental rights will vary depending on the circumstances. Parents should know about the types of child custody before a custody battle.

There are different types of child custody. Physical custody refers to a child's living arrangements after divorce or separation. It's important that both parents understand what these kinds of terms mean and how their custody agreement can bind them.

The following provides a general overview of the physical custody of a child. It also discusses what physical custody means in the larger context of custody disputes.

What Is Physical Custody?

Physical custody refers to the legal and physical responsibility of a parent or guardian to provide a home for a child. It is often determined in family court as part of a custody case. This may be through a custody order or court order outlining the custody terms.

Physical custody of the child refers to where the child lives daily. It involves decisions about the child's daily routine and care, such as meals, clothing, and bedtime. The court can grant physical custody solely to one parent (sole physical custody). Both parents can also share custody (physical custody). Physical custody is different than legal custody.

Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child's upbringing. This might include decisions involving education, healthcare, medical care, and extracurricular activities. The court can also grant legal custody solely to one parent (sole legal custody). Both parents can also share legal custody (joint legal custody).

The Best Interest of the Child Standard

Ultimately, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration when determining the custody of your child. When it comes to determining custody arrangements, this is the guiding principle.

Courts use this standard to determine what arrangement will serve the child's needs and interests. The courts will consider factors such as domestic violence and substance abuse. They will also consider the ability of each parent to make major decisions for the child when making decisions about legal custody and physical custody.

The parenting plan will also be established to outline custody and visitation schedules. Child support is determined based on the custodial arrangement. The best interest of the child standard is at the forefront of any child custody case. It is used to ensure that the child's welfare is the top priority.

Visitation Rights

Most modern custody arrangements prefer joint custody between the co-parents. This is unless one parent is found to be "unfit." If a parent has primary physical custody, they are called the "custodial" parent. The other parent is called the "non-custodial" parent. They may be granted visitation rights (also called "parenting time").

Some states also grant certain visitation rights to grandparents.

Sole Custody

In some situations, however, the court will give one parent sole custody. When a court gives a parent sole custody, the parent has exclusive physical and legal custody of the child.

The court typically gives sole custody only when the other parent is found unfit or incapable of caring for the child. Examples include abuse, drug addiction, and criminal behavior. In the case of sole custody, the court may allow the other parent some visitation, though much more limited than in a shared legal custody/physical custody arrangement.

Need Help Resolving a Physical Custody Dispute? Get Legal Help Today

Physical custody is always a difficult and emotionally challenging determination. An experienced attorney will know how to work with the court to get the best possible outcome for your child. They can provide you with helpful legal advice for your specific situation.

Get started today and find a family law attorney near you with experience handling custody matters.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
  • An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
  • An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent

A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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