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Posted by Edna on Oct 23, 2017

Defining custody

When it comes to child custody battles, the situation is often a complete surprise to those getting involved. Despite the fact that child custody issues arise for a large percentage of America, for those not directly involved in some way already, the whole process can be baffling.

Most know that after a divorce, parents can have different custody arrangements, often with the mother getting the bulk of the time with the kids.

In order to help those entering into this process now or in the near future, here are a few important custody terms to memorize, courtesy of the law firm Higdon, Hardy and Zuflacht.

Physical custody—this refers to where the child or children will physically reside. It can be the same or different from the following term.

Legal custody—this term refers to who has the legal right to make decisions for the child or children. These decisions can include choices about health and education. Should a child require care, the person who would be called and would make all decisions would be the person with legal custody. As mentioned above, this is usually the person who has physical custody of the child, at least part of the time.

Joint custody—this is a slightly more well-known term and refers to an arrangement that allows both parents to have physical custody of the child. This can be evenly split time or may involve a different arrangement (one parent during the week and one for weekends, or one parent during the school year and the other parent for summer and holidays, for instance).

Sole custody—Again, a term that is more common in the average American life. This means only one parent has physical and legal custody of the child. This is common in situations of abuse and other circumstances where one parent seems incapable (or uninterested) in caring for the child or children.

Split custody—A rarer situation in which siblings are split between the two parents. This can mean the children are permanently with one parent or the other, or that the children rotate between the parents. This situation may occur when it seems siblings are incapable of getting along and would be better off separated.

These are only the beginning terms needed to understand custody issues, but they do point in the direction of the options available to those who are about to discuss such a complicated and emotional choice. There is no right or wrong way to settle custody issues, and it’s important that all parties are aware of the situation in front of them and what each term (and each situation) would mean for them individually and as a member of the family.

By creating this simple guide, I hope that I have helped some families at least a little bit to be better prepared for what is ahead.

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