Custody, generally speaking, is being legally responsible for taking care of and making decisions for your child while they are under 18 years of age. This article will address what custody is with a focus on joint custody, given that joint custody is as frequent a result as it is. Read carefully to inform yourself, and remember to get in touch with an experienced and compassionate Suffolk County child custody lawyer if you are concerned about custody issues in a divorce you are planning.
How Does Joint Custody Work?
Speaking specifically, custody can first be divided into two overarching categories, legal and physical custody.
Legal custody means you are allowed to make major life decisions on behalf of your child. Examples include where they go to school, if your child gets surgery, and what religion they are taught.
Physical custody, also sometimes called residential custody, refers to taking physical care of and supervising your child. Physical custody is also called residential custody because who has physical custody is the parent who lives with the child.
The judge may decide that only one parent should have legal custody, leading to our next category, sole legal custody. Or, the judge may decide that both parents should have the ability to make life decisions for their children, in which case, the parents will have joint legal custody.
Physical custody can also be divided into joint physical custody and sole physical custody. If the child lives primarily with one parent, that parent has sole physical custody. The parent with sole physical custody is also known as the child’s primary caretaker or custodial parent. Typically a parent with sole physical custody will also have sole legal custody, as the parent is responsible for the child on a day-to-day basis.
Depending on the circumstances, the judge may instead order joint physical custody. The child will then live with both parents and both will be in frequent contact with their child, though the child may or may not spend the same amount of time with both parents.
Joint custody, whether joint legal or joint physical custody (or perhaps even both), requires the parents to communicate and cooperate. This can be difficult in certain cases, such as when the parents divorce because one was abusive.
However, joint custody can also be set up so that both parents have complete control over a particular part of the child’s life. For example, one parent may make all medical decisions for the child while the other parent makes all the decisions regarding education.