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What are the different kinds of Child Custody Agreements?

Almost everyone is familiar with the term child custody and is also aware of its meaning, but the types of child custody are known to few. People find it strange when they learn that the grant of child custody given to parents or guardians can have different types, including:

  • Physical Custody
  • Legal Custody
  • Sole Custody
  • Joint Custody

Let’s learn about all these types in detail.

Physical Custody

This is the most commonly used type of Child Custody. The grant of Physical Custody to a parent means that the parent can live with the child. This grant has to be approved by a ruling body or a court. Some states have also made the grant of Joint Physical Custody possible. Joint Physical Custody makes it possible for both the parents to live with their child or children for certain duration of time.

Joint Physical Custody is possible in situations where both parents live close to each other so that the child does not have to stress over moving from one parent’s home to the others. If the parents live too far from each other, one of the parents will be awarded child custody i.e. sole child custody. This is done to avoid strain on the child.

The term Sole Physical Custody refers to the situation where the child primarily lives with one of the parents. The other parent, however, is given the right of visitation or other custody rights. The visitation rights here are limited and defined. For example, sole physical custody of a child may be given to his or her mother so that the child spends all the days of his or her life with the mother while the father gets to visit the child only for a few hours at specific days.

Legal Custody

Legal custody of a child means that the parent has the right to make decisions regarding his or her child’s life like their health, education, and brought-up. Legal custody grants a parent the right of making decisions for the child; such as to choose a school for the child, the religion which the parent wants the child to practice, or the different types of medical care the child will receive. Most states grant Joint Legal Custody to parents after a divorce which allows both parents to make decisions regarding their child’s life.

None of the two parents holds the right to take away the decision-making powers from the other. If a case like this arises, the other parent that has been withdrawn from the decisions of his or her child holds the right to seek a court’s order to impose Joint Legal Custody again. The parent who violates the court order may not be punished by the court for the violation, but this probably will increase the stress in the already stressed relationship. This may also increase the amount of stress over the child. Not only this, but the legal fee also keeps increasing every time an attorney is called to the court.

If a parent feels that the other parent is not keeping the legal custody agreement, he or she can go to the court again to get sole legal custody of his or her child. The grant of Sole Legal Custody is avoided by a majority of the states as they consider it important that both parents look out for their child’s best interest.

Sole Custody

There are a few conditions on the basis of which one of the parents may be awarded sole physical custody during the divorce proceedings. In such cases, one of the parents has to be unfit for parenting either due to financial problems or drug addiction. Also, if one of the parents has a new partner and that partner is not fit to rear a child, then sole physical custody of the child will be awarded to the other parent.

Lately, courts are also granting joint legal custody to both the parents while sole physical custody is granted only to one of the parents. Moreover, if sole physical custody is granted to one of the parents, the other may get more lenient visitation rights.

Joint Custody

The divorced or separated parents of a child may share decision-making responsibilities or housing of the child. Such parents have either joint legal custody or physical custody of the child.

Most couples who have joint physical custody may also have joint legal custody. But those having joint legal custody may not have joint physical custody. If you are not sure how the different kinds of custody cases work, it is advised to get in touch with a family attorney.


It is important that the non-custodial parent sticks to the visitation schedule. The parent having custody does not have the right to deny the right of scheduled visit. Similarly, the non-custodial parent is bound to return the child after the visitation period.

If any of the parents is found violating the visitation rights, he or she will have to face serious consequences. Some cases involving violation of custody or visitation can result in criminal charges. However, some states consider a violation of visitation rights as a material change in circumstances and can lead to modification in the child custody rights.

Third parties like grandparents, stepparents, or extended relatives etc. are also provided visitation rights by some states. Still, a majority of the states do not grant these visitation rights but only under certain circumstances. Some states award parents the greater control with the right to limit interaction of any unwanted third parties with their child. This policy has been weighed against the best interests of the child.

Legal Help for the Child Custody Case

There is no denying the fact that the parents going through child custody cases suffer from emotional stress. These cases are legally complicated and require careful planning. To make the right choice for yourself and your child, it is crucial that you get professional guidance. The best advice here can be provided by an experienced Florida family law attorney.

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