Child custody disputes are part of any divorce case where a married couple have children together and in any paternity action. You are probably familiar with the terms “Sole Custody” and “Joint Custody.” I have found that even though many people know these terms, they are not exactly sure what they mean. Throw in the term “Legal Custody,” and we have a giant mess. Let me help you untangle the mess with these hints about custody.
Physical Custody v. Legal Custody
Physical custody is the determination by the court about who the children will live with and how much visitation the other parent will have. Legal custody is the determination by the court about who gets to make major decisions regarding medical, education, religion, and other major events in the children’s lives. It also includes what information a “non-custodial” parent can have.
Sole legal custody usually means one parent (usually the parent with whom the children live) has the ability to make all major decisions for the children, and the other parent is simply entitled to information about the children (ie report cards, medical records, dates of events, etc).
Joint legal custody usually means that both parents must meet and discuss major decisions about the children before any decision is made. Sometimes it requires the parents to go to mediation if they cannot agree how to handle a certain situation with their children.
Sole Custody v. Joint Custody
Sole physical custody is where one parent has the children most of the time, and the other parent has only standard visitation (usually every other weekend). Physical custody is determined by overnights. That means that if a non-custodial parent has the children less than 111 overnights, the custodial parent has sole physical custody. If the non-custodial parent has more than 111 overnights, that parent has some form of joint physical custody.
Joint physical custody is often confused as being a 50/50 arrangements, where the parents have the children an equal amount of time. Actually, any arrangement where the non-custodial parent has more than 111 overnights is considered a joint physical custody arrangement. That means that there is a wide swing in how much time a non-custodial parent may have the children but still have joint physical custody.
If your head isn’t spinning by now, it will be as you try to negotiate a parent-time arrangement with the other parent. Ammon Nelson Law, PLLC focuses its practice on divorce and custody issues in the Ogden, Roy, Layton, North Ogden, Farr West, Harrisville, Farmington, Kaysville, Fruit Heights, and North Salt Lake areas. We can help you sort out custody and negotiate an arrangement that is not only good for you, but also for your children. If you have questions about custody, please give us a call!