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Understanding the different types of child custody

Divorce can bring significant change to your family. When you have children, you want to arrive at a custody arrangement that suits their best interests. It's important to understand that custody is rarely a simple issue, and there are often several layers to consider.

As these matters are subjective, custody comes in several different types. Understanding the different custody classifications can better prepare you for the structural changes that may lie ahead for your family.

Legal custody

The parent who is awarded legal custody assumes an executive role in several important decisions regarding their children's lives. They will decide where their children go to school, the healthcare they'll receive, as well as what religion they will practice. The court can award legal custody jointly to both parents.

Physical custody

If a judge awards physical custody to parent, that means that the child or children can live with them. Sometimes, one parent will retain physical custody while the other will have visitation rights. While the state of Delaware does allow joint physical custody, the one-sided custody/visitation route remains common.

Sole custody

In some instances, such as the court deeming the other parent unfit, a court might award sole legal or physical custody to a parent. The grounds for a parent to be considered unfit are often related to financial or substance abuse problems.

Sometimes, if one parent has taken up a new partner that a judge finds unfit to care for a child, then the other parent can be granted sole physical custody.

Joint custody

When two parents share the responsibility of housing or making decisions about their children's lives, that is considered to be joint physical or legal custody. Joint physical custody calls for parents to come to an arrangement where their children spend designated times living with one or the other. Joint legal custody is a scenario where both parents have an active role in their children's important life decisions.

Finding the best child custody arrangement is a uniquely subjective decision. You'll want to consider the many pros and cons of each particular type of custody before arriving at the best solution for your family. Because divorce and custody can be emotional proceedings, it can be wise to consult with an outside party, particularly a legal professional, before moving forward.

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