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The different categories of child custody

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2022 | Child Custody

The term child custody is used a lot during divorce and other family proceedings in Indiana. Generally, it refers to who has control of the child and the right to make decisions for the child. More specifically, there are four terms a parent should be familiar with when dealing with child custody: legal custody, physical custody, joint custody and sole custody.

Legal custody

Legal custody of a child is about the power to make important decisions for the child’s upbringing. The person or people with legal custody rights make decisions about education, religion, health and healthcare. It is possible for both parents to share legal custody of their children after a divorce even if one parent has sole physical custody.

Physical custody

The second of the categories of child custody is physical custody. Physical custody is about who the child lives with and who makes the day-to-day decisions for the child, like what’s for dinner and what to watch on TV. It is probably what most people think of when they think of child custody. A parent who has physical custody is likely also to have legal custody on some level.

Joint custody

The other line upon which custody is distinguished is joint versus sole custody. Parents may have joint physical custody of a child, wherein the child lives with each of the parents at different times. This is sometimes colloquially referred to as shared custody. Legal custody, too, might also be joint or sole.

Sole custody

The final category of child custody is sole custody. This is a circumstance in which one parent has full legal or physical custody of the child. It applies to either or both legal and physical custody.

Final thoughts

Legal or physical custody may be paired with joint or sole custody in any number of ways, depending on the facts of the case. If the parents live near one another and have good relationships with the kids, joint custody might make sense. In other cases, the situation may call for sole legal or physical custody.