Divorce proceedings can be stressful for every party, and this is especially true when there are children involved. The matter of who gets custody over the children can often be one of the hardest questions divorcing parents have to answer. There are as many unique custody situations as there are families, but they all fall into a few categories.

Child Custody Classifications

In a case determining child custody, two classifications of custody must be considered. There is legal custody of the child and physical custody of the child. Legal custody refers to the authority and duty to make important and long-term decisions about the child’s life, such as education and religion. Physical custody refers to who the child physically resides with.

Types of Child Custody

The types of child custody awarded by courts are made of a combination of dividing up legal and physical custody. Sole custody is when one parent has total legal and physical custody of the child. Split custody is when each parent has sole custody of at least one child. Shared custody is when the child’s physical custody is split between the two parents in some way, while joint custody splits the child’s legal custody between the two parents.

Shared Vs. Joint Custody

Many people use “shared” and “joint” custody interchangeably, but they’re not the same, and the difference is the division of physical custody vs. legal custody. Often a judge will award some type of shared custody, but almost never offer joint custody in a contested divorce. Since the parents have proven they can’t make decisions together, they shouldn’t share legal custody. A combination of shared and joint custody is a common, beneficial solution for the children.

If you are or will soon be going through a divorce, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Derek S. Ritchie to get the legal help you deserve today.