Child custody is the legal relationship between a parent and a child in their care. Child custody encompasses legal custody, or the right to make decisions about the child; and physical custody, the right and duty to provide a house, and care for the child. When parents are married, they normally have joint legal and physical custody of their children. Decisions about child custody typically arise in case of a divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment.
Legal custody is the division of rights between the parents in order to make important decisions about their (minor) children. Generally, such decisions are related to education, physical and mental health and wellbeing and religious practices.
Legal custody may be joint, allowing both parents share the decision-making process, or sole, meaning that only one parent has the rights to make decisions regardless the wishes of the other parent.
Physical custody determines where a child lives. The home of the parent that has physical custody of a child will be considered the child’s legal domicile. The time the other parent spends with the child is determined by the visitation rights and it is defined by a court-ordered custody parenting schedule.
Physical custody includes:
- Sole custody, in which only one parent has physical custody of the child. The non-custodial parent would typically have visitation rights.
- Joint physical custody, It is an arrangement in which both parents house and care for the child for equal amounts of time, and where both are custodial parents.
- Split custody, In this arrangement, one parent has sole custody over some of their children, and the other parent keeps sole custody over the rest of their children.