What are the four types of child custody?

There are four types of child custody, legal, physical, sole, and joint custody. 

The breakdown of a relationship resulting in separation is a difficult and painful process in itself. It is sometimes made even more difficult when those involved are parents of children under 18 years of age. 

What is legal custody?

Legal custody involves making decisions that will have far-reaching effects on the child’s upbringing. This includes decisions relating to the child’s education, healthcare, and religion. 

If only one parent is entitled to make these decisions, that parent will have sole legal custody, but if both parents are entitled to be involved in making these decisions, the parents will have joint legal custody. 

What is physical custody?

Physical custody, while separate from legal custody, relates to which parent the child will physically live with on a daily basis. 

If sole physical custody is granted to a parent, visitation will usually be arranged for the other parent. 

Joint physical custody on the other hand will involve the child moving back and forth between their parent's homes.


What is sole custody?

Sole custody is where only one parent has both physical and legal custody of the child. In England and Wales, the mother and father usually have equal rights over a child. 

It is only in exceptional circumstances that sole custody will be awarded, for instance:
Where the other parent is held by the courts to be unfit to raise the child, is serving jail time, has a criminal record, history of abuse or neglect towards the child, or cannot take proper care of the child on account of being physically incapacitated or otherwise disabled.

What is joint custody?

Joint custody can be in the form of joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or even both joint legal and physical custody, wherein both parents are involved in aspects of the child’s life. 

While such arrangements are fair to parents, joint custody is often only feasible and beneficial to the child when the parents are amicable.

What do judges look for in child custody cases?

The primary consideration for judges in the UK is the best interests of the child, regardless of the inclinations of the parents. 

Other considerations may include who the primary caregiver is upon examining the history of parenting, the parents’ personality, and temperament. 

Additionally, the child’s physical, mental and emotional needs, and the child’s preferences if they are around 12 years of age and capable of understanding the situation. 

Judges will examine these factors meticulously, in order to make the order of child custody that would be the most beneficial to the child’s wellbeing.

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