Understanding the Differences Between Primary Custody and Joint Custody

sole custody vs joint custody

Your children’s squeals of laughter ring through the house while you feel like you’re dying inside. You and your spouse are on the brink of divorce, and you can’t bear the thought of not seeing your children every day after the marital breakup. You ask yourself, “Who will get custody of the kids?”

Research shows that more than 21 million kids in 2018 had one parent living outside the household. This represents more than 26% of children 21 years old or younger.

There are two main types of child custody: sole custody and joint custody. Let’s explore sole custody vs joint custody and which one you should pursue when getting divorced.

Legal and Physical Custody

Various custody arrangements are available to meet different families’ needs. They include sole and joint custody and physical and legal custody.

Physical custody deals with a parent’s responsibility and right to care for and house their children daily. Legal custody deals with your authority to determine how you will rear your children. This includes decisions regarding their religious rearing, schooling, and health care.

Both sole and joint custody have a legal and physical side. Let’s examine these aspects of child custody.

What Is Sole Custody?

Sole custody is also known as primary custody or full custody. This is an arrangement where only one parent assumes responsibility for the children. You may be granted physical and legal custody or only one and not the other.

Sole Legal Child Custody

Only you or the other parent may have the authority to make crucial decisions for your children. Let’s say the court grants you sole legal child custody. You won’t have to consult the other party before making decisions affecting your children’s welfare (e.g., medical decisions).

Sole Physical Child Custody

Your children will live with either you or the other party if you choose this arrangement. The other parent will have visitation rights if the court decides that this is in your children’s best interest.

Sole physical child custody may be necessary if your future ex-spouse will live far away. This will prevent you and your ex from comfortably and safely splitting your time with the kids regularly. You might also have to choose sole physical child custody if the other parent can’t give your children a safe home environment.

What Is Joint Custody?

A joint custody arrangement is where parents share physical or legal custody. They might share both in some cases.

Joint Legal Child Custody

Suppose the court awards you and your future ex joint legal child custody. You’ll both participate in making major decisions regarding your children. Courts typically award joint custody unless it won’t be in the children’s best interests.

Joint custody might not be awarded if you and the other parent can’t make significant decisions together. It might also occur if one parent can’t make decisions or isn’t fit to do so for the following reasons:

  • Incarceration
  • History of abusing or neglecting the children
  • History of inflicting domestic violence

Parents who struggle with mental illnesses also might not be given joint custody. The same applies to drug-addicted parents since drugs may affect their judgment and stability.

Joint Physical Child Custody

This arrangement allows the children to spend significant time living with you and the other parent. The parents’ time with the children may not be divided 50-50. That’s because constantly moving between two households may be emotionally and physically difficult for the children.

You and the other party will spend nearly equal time with your children. Your kids will primarily live with one parent (custodial parent) and still see the other parent regularly.

Sole Custody vs Joint Custody

Sole custody is best if your future ex is abusive or unfit to make vital decisions affecting your children. This arrangement may also help decrease confusion and conflict between you and the other person. It may help you give your children more consistency and stability.

Joint custody is ideal if two parents want to participate in their children’s lives and are respectful and cooperative. The arrangement may foster a feeling of security and belonging for your children since they feel like both parents support and love them.

Who Makes the Custody Decision?

Can you and the other parent agree on a custody arrangement? The court will grant your desired arrangement if it seems fair to both parties. It must also be in your children’s best interest.

Let’s say you can’t reach a just agreement with the other party. A judge will make this decision for you. They’ll consider the following factors when making their decision:

  • The children’s relationships with both parents
  • The children’s preferences (if they’re mature enough to decide)
  • The parents’ preferences

A judge will also scrutinize the parents’ physical and mental capacity to care for their children. Another factor the court will consider is both parents’ ability to support the kids financially.

Consulting an attorney might help make reaching a custody agreement outside of court more manageable. Relying on a judge to make your custody decision may yield a decision you don’t like and cause conflict with your future ex.

Co-Parenting Tips

Co-parenting is critical for promoting your children’s well-being, whether you choose sole or joint custody. Maintaining open communication about the children’s needs with your ex can help you reduce drama. A shared calendar may help with this.

Avoid criticizing your ex when the children are present. This can cause strife and create an emotionally unstable living environment for your children. Encourage a respectful and healthy relationship between the other parent and your children.

How We Can Help With Custody

Are you wondering about sole custody vs joint custody? Sole custody is where just one parent is responsible for the children. Joint custody allows both parents to participate in their children’s lives by spending time with them or making important decisions affecting their welfare.

We’re passionate about helping you navigate child custody at Blake and Detchemendy Law Firm. We’ll help you determine the best custody arrangement for your family’s situation and guide you through the process. Schedule a consult today!