Different Types of Child Custody

Different Types of Child Custody


Physical Custody

Physical custody suggests that a parent has the legal right to have a child(ren) live with them. A lot of states will grant joint physical custody when the child spends considerable amounts of time with each parent. Joint physical custody is optimal if parents live somewhat close to each other, as it will lessen the stress on children and enables them to maintain a relatively normal routine.

Where the child lives mainly with one parent and has visitation with the other, commonly the parent with who the child mainly lives with, known as the “custodial” parent, is going to have sole or main physical custody, and the other parent, the non-custodial one, is going to have visitation rights or parenting time with their child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody of a child suggests having the right and the responsibility to make decisions about a child’s raising. A parent that has legal custody and is able to make decisions regarding the child’s schooling, religious raising and medical care, for instance. In a lot of states, courts typically grant joint legal custody, meaning that the decision-making is shared among both parents.

When you have shared joint legal custody with the other parent and you shut them out from decision-making, the other parent could take you back to court and request the judge to impose the custody agreement. You’re not going to get fined or go to jail, but it will most likely be embarrassing and cause more strife among you — which could harm the child(ren). Additionally, if you are represented by an attorney, it’s going to be costly.

If you’re thinking the circumstances among you both make it unattainable to share joint legal custody (there is no communication with you about important issues or is disparaging), you could go to court and request for sole legal custody. However, in a lot of states, joint legal custody is the preference, so you’re going to have to prove to a family-court judge that it isn’t in the child’s best interests.

Sole Custody

One parent may have sole legal custody or sole physical custody of their child(ren). Courts typically won’t delay in granting sole physical custody to one parent when the other appears unfit — for instance, alcohol and/or drug abuse or child abuse charges or neglect.

Nevertheless, in a lot of states, courts are deviating from granting sole custody to just one parent and towards increasing the role each parent plays in their children’s lives. Even whereas courts do grant sole physical custody, the parties typically still will share joint legal custody, and the non-custodial parent enjoys a plentiful visitation schedule. In these conditions, the parents would jointly make decisions about the child’s raising, but one parent would be named the foremost physical caretaker, whereas the other parent gets visitation rights under a parenting agreement or plan.

Needless to say, that there may be resentment between you and your soon-to-be ex. However, it is a good idea not to pursue sole custody unless the other parent significantly causes absolute harm to the children. Yet, courts can still allow the other supervised visits.

Joint Custody

Parents that aren’t living together will have joint custody when they are sharing the decision making obligations for, and/or physical authority and the custody of, the child(ren). Joint custody may be present when the parents have been divorced, are separated, or aren’t cohabiting anymore, or even when they never even lived with each other.

Joint Custody Arrangements

When parents are sharing joint custody, they typically work out a schedule in accordance to their work needs, housing arrangements and the needs of the children. If the parents can’t come to an agreement on a schedule, the courts will enforce an arrangement. A typical pattern is for children to divide weeks between their parent’s house or condo. Additional joint physical custody arrangements comprise of:

  • alternating months, years, or 6-month lengths of time, or
  • spending time on weekends and holidays with one parent, and spending days of the week with the other.

There is even joint custody arrangements in which the children stay in the family home and the parents alternate moving in and out, when not in the family home spending their time in individual housing of their own. This is typically known as – bird’s nest custody and/or nesting.

Joint Custody Pros and Cons

Joint custody has the advantage of guaranteeing the children have continuous contact and engagement with each of their parents. It also relieves many of the burdens of parenting for both parents.

There are, by all means, disadvantages:

  • Children are required to be transported around.
  • Non cooperating parents or ill will may have seriously negative impacts on children.
  • Maintaining 2 homes for the children may be costly.

If there is a joint custody arrangement in place, keep detailed and organized financial records of your costs. Retain receipts for groceries, schooling and after-school interests, clothing and their medical care. Eventually, your ex might claim they have spent more on the children than you have, and a judge will value your thorough records.


  1. Nolo. (2020, November 06). The Different Types of Child Custody. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/types-of-child-custody-29667.html

Speak With Our Child Custody Attorney In Scottsdale

Our child custody and guardianship attorney in Phoenix and Scottsdale will advance your case with concern and personal attention and always have you and your children’s best interest in mind when offering legal solutions.

An experienced family law attorney will work with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your situation. We advocate for our clients, so they have the brightest future possible. Give us a call today at 480-999-0800 for a free consultation.


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Jennifer Moshier, Scottsdale Divorce Lawyer


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