Types of Child Custody

If you’re getting ready to create a parenting plan for your child or children, you need to know the different types of child custody.

Entering into a child custody conversation can be challenging. Even if the discussion is amicable and both parents have the best interest of the child in mind, it can be stressful. To make the situation easier for everyone involved, it helps to know all of your options before starting the conversation.

Knowing the different types of child custody helps both parties fully understand the terms before making an agreement. It also helps you explore all of your options so you can make the best plan of action for your family.

The 5 Types of Child Custody

If a married couple with children splits up or parents that live separately have a child, they need to create a plan for how they will share the responsibility of caring for the child. They need to choose the type of child custody that will work best for the parents, and more importantly, the involved child or children.

Legal Custody

When a parent has legal custody, they have the right to make legal decisions for the child. Parents with children under the age of 18 are legal custodians of the child. Legal custody grants a parent the right to make decisions about how the child will be raised and cared for. A parent with legal custody can make decisions as it relates to the child’s healthcare, religion, and education.

Physical Custody

When a parent has physical custody, they have the right for the child to live with them. Parents with physical custody (called a “custodial parent”) have the child in their home and care for them on a day-to-day basis.

Sole Custody

Sole custody refers to one parent having full legal custody, full physical custody, or both full legal and physical custody of a child. Because it is often better for the child to have both parents involved, sole custody is usually only an option when one parent is deemed unfit.

Joint Custody

Joint custody refers to parents sharing legal custody, physical custody, or both. The goal of most custody agreements is to create a plan where each parent has some physical and legal custody. Under a joint physical custody agreement, both parents spend time with the child living at their home. Under a joint legal custody agreement, parents work together to make long-term decisions about the child’s life and well-being.

Grandparent Visitation Custody

In some cases, child custody expands beyond the rights of parents and extends to grandparents. Grandparents can get legal rights to visit their grandchildren. While this may not be a part of the initial child custody agreement, it’s worth noting that its an option for grandparents.

Related: How to Prepare for the First Meeting with a Divorce Attorney

Who Decides the Type of Child Custody?

Child custody usually comes into question when a couple goes through a divorce, when a child is born out of wedlock, or when circumstances change and an existing custody arrangement needs to change.

Parents must work together to decide on a plan on their own, or they may need to get legal assistance. Child custody can be decided by:

  • The Family: Parents can work together to create an agreement outside of the courtroom. It is advised to have the plan in writing in the event that the plan doesn’t work out and becomes a family law matter. (Please see our Guide to Florida Family Law Forms to see how you can establish a custody plan.)
  • Mediation: Parents can work with a third-party mediator to come up with a child custody agreement. Mediation allows both parties to work together to come up with a plan that they can both agree on. If they can’t agree, they will need to go to court.
  • Judge: If parents cannot come up with a child custody agreement on their own or through mediation, they will go before a judge to present their case. The judge will make the final decision. In most cases, parents want to avoid this option as it puts 100% of the control in the hands of the judge. The parents must abide by their ruling.

Related: 6 Ways to Prepare for Divorce Mediation

Get The Best Child Custody Outcome

If you’re dealing with a child custody change, you may be feeling nervous or anxious. Creating a parenting plan when going through a separation or a divorce can be stressful. It’s natural to feel a bit of anxiety about the situation.

But, you can take steps to ensure that you get the best possible outcome in your custody agreement. 

You took the first step by educating yourself on the different types of child custody. Now, you know your options.

The next step is finding a family law attorney who can guide you through the process. With a trusted and experienced attorney by your side, you can ensure that you get the best possible parenting plan whether you create the agreement in or out of court.

Are you getting ready to create a child custody plan? Explore your options and find out how to get the outcome that is best for you and your family. Schedule a free consultation with TJ Grimaldi to share your story and see how he can help. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 today.


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