When parents divorce, custody choices are sure to follow. This issue can naturally be emotional and therefore contentious. It pays to understand what is meant by the term sole custody with its physical and legal variations. Read to learn more about this important divorce issue.
Sole Physical Custody
When the parents or the judge decides that the child should reside with one parent primarily, that is sole physical custody. Both parents still have equal legal responsibility for the child, however. When sole physical custody is awarded, it is expected that the non-custodial parent has regularly-scheduled visits with the child using a visitation schedule.
The family court system, parents, and children tend to do well under this form of child custody and it is probably the most often-used parenting plan. The benefits are many:
1. The child has the security of residing in a single home (preferably the family home they are accustomed to). This can provide children (particularly younger children) with the feeling of having a main residence they call "home".
2. Both parents are able to spend time with the child. While the physical custodian of the child is likely to have more time with the child, visitation can be as generous as the parents wish.
3. Both parents share responsibility for making important decisions about issues like education, discipline, and religion.
4. Both parents have a legal right to attend school functions, social gatherings, to attend to medical needs, and every other privilege and right that married parents do.
Parents should take care not to over-extend themselves when planning visitation. It's better to promise less and deliver more when it comes to disappointing a child. Be sure to take work schedules and social obligations into account when planning your visitation schedule. Here are a few issues to discuss and agree upon when creating your visitation plan:
- Time spent on weekends, weekdays, holidays, summer vacations, and school breaks
- Dealing with the child's birthdays
- Emergency plans for a sick child
- Pick-up and drop-off considerations
Sole Legal Custody
While it is uncommon for one parent to have both sole physical and legal custody, sometimes that option is best. Most judges will be extremely reluctant to award custody in that manner unless the non-custodial parent is incarcerated, has substance abuse problems, has been convicted of a crime, is an abuser, has a mental illness, etc. Unlike with sole physical-only custody, a legal custodian has 100% of the parenting responsibility and can move away or do anything else they wish with the child.
To find out more about sole custody, talk to your family law attorney.