Child Custody: What?s the Real Difference Between Sole Custody and Joint Custody?

Difficult choiceThere are common misconceptions about the differences between joint and sole custody, legal and physical custody, and how they intertwine. It?s important to educate yourself on some simple custody facts so you can plan an arrangement that will work best for your family post divorce. Stable custody arrangements help to ensure that the lives of parents and their children run as smoothly and healthily as possible.

Legal and Physical Custody

It?s not uncommon for legal and physical custody to work separately in custody agreements, though both are involved with who has rights over a child. A parent may have sole legal custody but not sole physical custody. Distance, neglect, and the amount of time a parent has to spend with a child should all come into play when deciding on legal and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody involves the responsibility of making decisions about a child?s life. These decisions include important aspects such as:

  • Schooling
  • Religion
  • Medical Care
  • Counseling
  • Housing

Joint legal custody means both parents have a legal responsibility to decide on these aspects. If one parent begins to make major decisions without cooperation from the other parent in a joint custody, the offender can be held in contempt of the law. Both parents will resolve at the settlement of custody which topics will or won?t need to be discussed jointly in the future.

Sole legal custody means one parent is solely responsible for making decisions about a child?s life. This may be a better option for a parent who made most of the major and day-to-day decisions in marriage. That isn?t to say, however, that a non-custodial parent can?t make basic day-to-day decisions while a child is in their care.

Physical custody

Physical custody simply establishes where the children live on a regular basis. Granting sole custody of your children to one parent can be a very big deal. A parent with sole physical custody can legally move across the country without needing to first consult the other parent, assuming no other legal custody rules are broken.

Joint physical custody allows for both parents to have maximum involvement in the lives of their children. Joint custody is the ideal arrangement to show children that they?re more important than the differences their parents encounter, if both parents can be cordial with one another. Negatively, joint custody can put children in the crossfire of ongoing disagreements and complex litigations.

Sole physical custody doesn?t necessarily mean the other parent doesn?t get to see the children, it just means one parent is recognized as the primary guardian. Visitation rights are often arranged so that the non-custodial parent can spend time with the children on a regular basis, such as every other weekend.

We hope this information provides some clarity between the differences in custody agreements.? If you have further questions about custody arrangements, contact the Law Offices of Barbara Sherer.

3 thoughts on “Child Custody: What?s the Real Difference Between Sole Custody and Joint Custody?”

  1. Pingback: The Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody In The State Of Illinois

  2. If both parents have sole joint custody, what can the non custodial parent do to prevent the custodial parent from making major decisions that Can effect the children?? (I’m the custodial parent)

    1. Sarah Sherer-Kohlburn

      Hi Malina,
      Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, due to Illinois laws, attorneys are not permitted to give legal advice on these online forums. You should consult an attorney in your area for advice on your specific situation.

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