What is the Physical Custody of a Child in a Divorce? 

When a divorce occurs, there is a lot of legal jargon. Physical custody is one of these terms. Essentially, it means who gets the children. However, there is also a legal term known as joint legal custody. It refers to a situation where one parent has primary physical custody while the other parent shares visitation rights. 

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Joint legal custody 

When a couple has joint legal custody of a child, they must make decisions about the child’s upbringing together. This can include major decisions such as the child’s education, religion, and employment. They also must consult each other before making decisions about their child’s health and welfare. However, a joint legal custody arrangement does not mean that the parents should be unable to disagree when making these decisions. 

Physical custody is divided roughly 50-50 between both parents. This arrangement is generally more beneficial when the parents live near each other. Otherwise, frequent transitions between the parents could cause conflict. 

Primary physical custody 

The best scenario in child custody cases is where the parents can work out a mutually beneficial agreement. If the other parent is unwilling to cooperate, primary physical custody can be difficult to achieve. In such cases, the courts may prefer to hear both sides of the story. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, requires a lot of coordination and may cause disputes. 

Primary physical custody refers to the parent with the majority of contact with the child. While both parents may be granted visitation rights and have equal rights to make decisions about the child’s welfare, the primary custodial parent will have more time with the child. This type of custody can also be granted due to extenuating circumstances. 

In a common scenario, the child lives with one parent more than 30% of the year or for at least 110 nights per year. In a shared custody arrangement, the child lives with one parent most of the time, while the other parent has access to the child for up to two weeks every other month. This arrangement is sometimes referred to as nesting. This type of custody arrangement allows the child to live in the family home. The parents then alternate moving in and out. 

Visitation rights 

When a child is divided in a divorce, the two parents will have different visitation rights. While the noncustodial parent has the right to visit their child, sole physical custody is reserved for cases when the child’s best interests are not served. Usually, the noncustodial parent will have limited visitation, which entails a scheduled time at a court-approved facility with a third-party supervisor. In other cases, the noncustodial parent may have unsupervised visitation at a family member’s home or an approved location. 

If a parent’s visitation is not reasonable, the court may order supervised visitation. This means that the noncustodial parent may spend some time alone with the child, although it may be limited to overnights. Supervised visitation is only granted when a child’s safety is at risk. In such cases, the noncustodial parent may hire a professional agency to monitor the child’s visitation.