Divorces are difficult enough, but when children are involved, the process can become even more emotionally taxing. If you have children, one of the most important aspects of any divorce case is determining the appropriate custodial arrangement for the children. Ultimately, you want to do what is best for your child. The legal standard is “the best interests of the child.”

There are several different types of custody, each with specific meanings and implications. It is imperative to understand what these terms mean to ensure the best possible outcome for your child. Below is an overview of the key terms you need to know:

Decision-making Authority: Joint vs Sole Custody

Joint custody means that both parents have a right to be involved in making major decisions concerning the child. These would include decisions concerning the child’s health, education, and welfare. In order for joint custody to work, the parents must be able to put aside any personal animosity so that they can effectively communicate with one another (“co-parent”) concerning their child.

Sole custody means that one parent makes all decisions concerning the child and does not have to consult with the other parent before making those important decisions. Courts generally won't hesitate to award sole custody to one parent if the other parent is deemed unfit.

Parental Access: Primary Residency vs Temporary Residency/Visitation vs Shared Residency

Primary residency simply means the home/parent with whom the child will spend the majority of his/her time. The child’s “home base,” if you will. The parent who has primary residency is responsible for caring and providing for the child most of the time.

Temporary residency (also referred to as “visitation”) means periods of time during which a parent who does not have primary residency or sole custody will spend time with and have physical custody of the child. Typically, there is a specific schedule of temporary residence or visitation in these circumstances such as one evening per week, alternating weekends, alternating holidays, etc.

Shared residency means that both parents have equal periods of residency with the child. For example, a four day-four day or week to week rotation for the child between both parents’ residence. Again, this type of arrangement requires complete cooperation, effective communication and flexibility between the parents.

No other aspect of a divorce proceeding is as emotionally draining or highly charged as custody and access to children. Our experienced Family Law attorneys at Trevett Cristo are dedicated to helping you obtain the best possible outcome in all aspects of your divorce proceeding, including custody.