What is the difference between sole and joint custody?

Divorce is a difficult process on its own, but it becomes an entirely different situation when custody is contentious. Custody battles can become very intense and end up taking months in the courtroom. Even worse, divorces with intense custody battles are often the most stressful divorces.

Understanding the different varieties of custody the courts may award you and your ex-spouse is the first step toward deciding what path is most fruitful for your family post-divorce. According to FindLaw, it is common for the courts to award joint custody to the parents unless there is a history of abuse or addiction in the household.

What is joint custody?

Most of the time, joint custody refers to the parents splitting both legal and physical custody of the children. Usually, this results in a co-parenting arrangement where the child will move between the parental households according to a preset schedule, assuming that the child can easily get to his or her school from both addresses. This addresses the “physical custody” part of joint custody.

Legal custody involves having the authority to make lifestyle decisions on behalf of a minor child. This includes what religious upbringing the child has, medical care, educational decisions and more. In joint custody, both parents have equal input on this.

What is sole custody?

In a sole custodial situation, one parent holds both legal and physical custody of the children. In this parenting situation, the non-custodial parent is usually entitled to some level of visitation with the child even though he or she does not have custody. It is unusual for a court to grant a parent sole custody unless there are extenuating circumstances necessitating it, like abuse or addiction.