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4 child custody terms everybody should know

On Behalf of | Jun 2, 2024 | Family Law |

If you are a parent going through a divorce, one of your main focuses is likely the right to raise your children. There are many ways child custody can end up working. Factors such as a parent’s ability to raise their children, each parent’s desire to be involved in their children’s lives and history of neglect or abuse can often decide the outcome of a child custody arrangement. 

Before discussing child custody, understanding several terms can help you through the process. Here is what you should know:

1. Physical custody

Physical custody often decides which parent a child spends most of their time with. Parents given physical custody are responsible for providing for their child’s basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter. Some other responsibilities of the parent may include helping to ensure a child attends doctor’s appointments or after-school extracurriculars. 

2. Legal custody

Every parent has different ideas as to what is best for their children. Legal custody determines how much control a parent has over how their child is raised. A parent, for example, could attend doctor’s appointments and decide where a child should go on medication for a health concern. Legal custody could also allow a parent to decide whether their child should go to public or private school or if homeschooling is the better choice.

3. Joint custody

Physical and legal custody can be divided between parents in many different ways. Parents who share both forms of custody often have a joint custody arrangement. Joint custody often means parents continue to work together to decide what is best for their children and switch days when their child is under their care. 

4. Sole custody 

A parent could fight to have sole custody, which could give them full physical and legal custody rights. This parent is likely entirely responsible for their child’s upbringing. The other parent may be responsible for paying child support and may have some visitation rights.


Child custody is a complex family law matter with many different legal terms. It can help to reach out for legal guidance to learn more about child custody.