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Understanding the Different Types of Custody

When it comes to family court proceedings, the language used can often exacerbate negative feelings and create a wider rift between parents and children. But mediation offers a different path, with softer and more inclusive language. Instead of using terms like “custody” and “visitation,” phrases like “parenting time” and “primary care” are preferred.

We recognize the significance of language in family court cases and we aim to promote a collaborative and constructive approach to child custody issues. We understand the importance of using language that is respectful and considerate of all parties involved. By embracing inclusive language, we can work towards the best possible outcome for both parents and their children.

However, for the purpose of clarity and to better understand the terminology used in court, we will include both the legal and family mediation-friendly language. This approach ensures that readers are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the different types of custody and parenting arrangements, as well as the language used in both litigation and mediation settings. By presenting both sets of terminology, we hope to provide a more nuanced and informative discussion of child custody issues.

Child custody is a complex and often contentious issue in family court, and one that requires thorough understanding and preparation. When it comes to determining custody for a child, there are several factors that are essential to consider, and a few important terms you should know.

Understanding which types of custody are available is essential as the type of parenting arrangement you have may directly impact the quality of your relationship with your child.

You may have heard the terms “full,” “sole,” and “joint” custody, but there are many other types to explore. Let’s dive into the different types of custody and what they mean for parents.

Learn about the differences between legal and physical custody, how sole custody and joint or shared custody works, and what goes into establishing parenting plans, among others.

Types of Custody: Full, Sole, Primary, Joint & More

Full Custody

Full custody refers to a situation where one spouse has complete legal authority over all major decisions in their children’s lives—including medical care, education, and religious upbringing, among others. The residential parent can make decisions without consulting with their partner. This type of custody is typically granted when the other parent is deemed unfit or unable to provide a secure environment for their children’s upbringing.

Sole Custody Versus Joint Custody

When discussing parenting arrangements, the two primary types of child custody are sole and joint. Sole custody means that one parent has full legal and physical rights over their children. The primary residential parent makes all the decisions regarding the children’s upbringing and education—and can deny access to the other parent as they deem fit. Joint custody is when both spouses are given legal and physical rights over their child. Each one must agree on major decisions regarding their child’s life.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole custody is similar to full custody in that one parent has complete legal authority over major decisions in their children’s lives. The primary custodial parent makes all the decisions regarding their upbringing and education—and can deny access to the other parent as they deem fit.

However, in cases where both spouses are determined fit enough to care for their children, but are unable to agree on certain matters concerning their children, sole decision-making authority may be granted to one parent as an attempt to protect a child’s best interests. In these cases, both parents may still have parenting time, but only one parent will have ultimate decision-making power.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint custody refers to a situation where both spouses share legal authority over major decisions revolving around their children’s lives. These decisions typically revolve around education, medical care, religious upbringing, extra-curricular activities, and more. Some states do not allow joint child custody unless both parents agree on these matters beforehand.

Under this arrangement, both parents have equal access to their children on an ongoing basis. This can take various forms; for example, joint physical and legal custody means that both parents share physical responsibility for their children and make decisions about their upbringing together. On the other hand, joint legal, but not physical custody, refers to a scenario consisting of both parents making joint decisions about their children’s lives, while the parent with the primary physical custody is often the one to follow through on those decisions.

In most cases, both parents may have some form of parenting time where the children spend time with each one at different times. However, there are some cases where one parent has primary parenting time while the other has designated parenting time only

Primary vs Secondary Custody

When discussing parenting arrangements, it’s important to distinguish between the parent with primary parenting responsibility and the other parent. The primary parent is the one who spends the majority of the time with the child and has the legal authority to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as where they live, go to school, and receive medical treatment. The other parent may have parenting time, also known as “parenting access,” on certain days or weekends each month. This allows the child to maintain a relationship with both parents. This type of parenting arrangement can also include joint decision-making between both parents if they agree on certain matters such as medical care and education.

Difference Between Legal and Physical Custody

It’s also essential to distinguish between legal and shared physical custody when discussing parental rights and parenting arrangements. Legal custody refers to the spouse that has decision-making power for major decisions such as health care or religious upbringing for their child, while physical custody refers to the parent that has physical control during any given period of time. These two elements can be shared jointly, or granted solely.

In cases of sole physical custody, one parent has been granted legal authority to make all important decisions regarding their child’s residence, day-to-day care, education, health care, and other activities. However, this does not mean that the Non-primary parent will have no involvement in decisions. Often, courts grant joint legal custody where each primary care giver must be consulted when making major life choices. In cases where joint legal custody exists with sole physical custody awarded to one parent, the other parent may be granted access rights such as visitation or extended parenting time.

Joint or Shared Physical Parenting

Shared parenting is similar to joint parenting except it refers specifically to situations where both parents split physical time with their children equally, or almost equally. Both parents share responsibility and have primary residence over their children at different times throughout the year. This type of arrangement works well for continuing contact with their children as often as possible, since their work schedules prevent them from having ample parenting time year-round.

Primary physical parenting grants one parent the right to have physical control more than 50% of the time while joint physical parenting requires both parents to share control equally (50/50 split). Shared parenting arrangements differ in that they are often more flexible in terms of when each parent has access to their children, for example, on alternating weekends or certain holidays—and can involve non-parental caregivers having access during off-hours, such as after school or on summer vacations.

Understanding Joint Co-Parenting: How to Determine the Primary Caregiver?

When spouses enter into agreements for shared parenting, neither is automatically designated as “the primary parent”—even if one spends more time with the child than the other. A court may designate one parent as the “primary parent” if they feel it is necessary. In such cases, that parent may be granted sole legal and physical responsibility over the child while the other parent has scheduled time with the child.

Ultimately, the determination of the primary parent in a joint custody arrangement depends entirely on how the parenting plan was created. If both partners were granted equal time with their children under the terms of their agreement, then neither would technically be considered “the primary parent.”

However, if a court were to deem one parent unfit or posing a risk to the child’s well-being, they could grant sole legal and physical responsibility to the other parent, making them the “primary parent.” In cases of shared parenting, the court is tasked with determining who will be the primary parent—an important decision consisting of various factors that may have serious implications for everyone involved.

It is important to understand the court’s process for determining who the primary parent is and how the decision could affect everyone involved. The Court’s Decision-Making Process

When determining which parent should have primary physical custody, courts typically examine several criteria, including physical and psychological health, financial security, moral character, emotional stability, lifestyle habits (such as smoking or drug use), and in some cases, they may also consider religious beliefs as part of their process.

In addition to these considerations, courts may also account for which parent has been primarily responsible caring for their child prior to filing for custody. This means that if one parent has been more involved than the other in providing day-to-day care such as taking children to school, their extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, or helping them with homework, this could be beneficial in establishing that person as the custodial parent. Courts prefer continuity for young children and therefore may lean towards keeping them in their existing environment when possible.

Other Considerations

When deciding which parent should be awarded primary physical care, courts often look at several other factors including whether either spouse has remarried or committed any criminal offenses since filing for divorce or separation. Additionally, they consider whether either spouse has relocated or is planning to move, whether either spouse works outside of the home, and how much time a child spends with either parent. All of these factors can influence a court’s decision regarding who should be the designated primary caregiver in a joint care arrangement.

Rights And Responsibilities of the Primary Caregiver

There are a number of responsibilities a primary caregiver is expected to fulfill including providing a safe and nurturing home environment and handling day-to-day tasks such as providing food, clothing, transportation to school or activities, and others. The parent granted with primary care is also responsible for making sure that their child attends school regularly and follows any rules set by either household (if there are two households involved). The primary caregiver generally has final decision-making authority over any major life decisions unless otherwise specified in an agreement between both parents or ordered by a court.

Benefits of Joint Coparenting

This parenting arrangement gives both parents equal access to their children so that no single person misses out on important milestones in their lives. It also allows each parent time alone with their child without interference from the other—which can help establish a stronger bond between everyone. Lastly, it ensures that all major decisions regarding a child’s health and well-being are made jointly by both parents so that no single person makes unilateral decisions on behalf of another when it comes to the best interest of their child.

Joint co parenting arrangements can be complex but they offer many benefits for separating spouses who have children together. It allows both parents to remain actively involved in their children’s lives despite living separately from one another. While there are various factors that go into determining who will serve as the primary coparent, understanding what rights and responsibilities come along with this role can help establish expectations between households during this difficult transition period.

The role of a primary co parent can have far-reaching implications both legally and emotionally—especially if there are disagreements between co parents regarding the kind of parenting style they believe is best. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide which co-parent should be designated as primary based on what they determine would be most conducive to fostering a positive environment for raising children during times of transition.

Therefore, important decisions around joint co parenting should be well thought out. Former spouses are encouraged to understand all aspects of this process before entering into negotiations with their co parent so that they can make informed decisions about what would best serve their family’s interests and the best interests of their children. By understanding these nuances beforehand—and being prepared to present relevant facts before a judge—co parents can ensure that they receive fair consideration from the court when seeking joint legal co parenting rights over their children.

Co-Parenting Plans and Parenting Time Arrangements

When it comes to understanding different types of child custody agreements, it pays to be informed and knowledgeable about your options. Knowing the differences between full, sole, and joint custody can help ensure that your rights are protected while also allowing you to do what’s best for your children in any situation.

“Visitation rights” refers to a court order that grants the non-primary parent the right to spend parenting time with their children periodically throughout the year, typically on weekends or holidays. These rights are largely based on state laws and regulations surrounding family law matters such as divorce, child support payments, and parenting plans.

Other Types of Parenting Arrangements

In addition to sole, joint, primary, and secondary parenting arrangements, there are others such as split parenting arrangements where each parent has parenting time for alternate weeks; 50/50 parenting arrangements where each parent has equal time with the children; supervised parenting time where a third party must be present during time with the children; mediated parenting time which involves an outside mediator helping to facilitate time between parents and children; therapeutic parenting time where family law therapists help determine how time should be structured; third-party guardianship where grandparents or other family members become guardians instead of parents; interstate relocation agreements where one of the spouses wants to move out-of-state with their children; temporary agreements while waiting for a permanent agreement; and more.

How Balakhane Mediation Can Help

Child custody can be a challenging and emotionally charged topic, which is why it’s essential to approach it with care and sensitivity. At Balakhane Mediation, we understand the potential harm that the word “custody” can cause, and we strive to use softer language such as “parenting time arrangements” or “parenting plans” to avoid unnecessary conflict.

We provide parting couples with a safe and neutral space for open dialogue and facilitate conversations that extend beyond the home. Our goal is to guide the divorce and parenting time dialogue from a place of compassion, sensitivity, and understanding, helping to foster efficient conflict resolution efforts that benefit everyone involved.

If you’re interested in taking the leap of faith through divorce mediation, Balakhane Mediation offers a complimentary mediation consultation session. This session is designed to help couples assess each person’s needs, avoid conflict, and mitigate unpleasantness throughout the divorce mediation and parenting time process.

Contact us today at 424-235-4173 to get started, and allow us to help you plan the next steps in your divorce mediation and parenting time journey.

Sue Gramacy
Sue Gramacy
October 25, 2022.
I recommend Leyla Balakhane for resolving family disputes. She listens carefully, appreciates the emotions and needs that underline each conversation . She is genuinely concerned with the well being of all parties involved. She is very effective. What’s great is she always focuses on the best interest of the children. I have worked with Leyla for over 10 years and have watched her work her magic with families. Sue Gramacy
Stacey Lisk
Stacey Lisk
October 14, 2022.
Leyla Balakhane was one of the supervising mediators that worked with us at Edmund D Edelman Children’s Court. Given that she was one of the top mediators working on unlawful detainer cases, she was referred by a judge who found her to be incredibly gifted in what she does and felt that she would be a great asset in working with families. Leyla has a natural ability to connect with the families and helping them reach agreements that is far above whats required. Given that she was very interested in growing in her practice, she was able to help create a more in-depth and detailed parenting checklist which led to a higher success rate in or mediations at the Children’s Court. Because of Leyla many families have more profound and insightful agreements. I would add supervising mediator
Your RN Attorney Jennifer Johnston Terando
Your RN Attorney Jennifer Johnston Terando
October 12, 2022.
Leyla Balakhane is knowledgable, compassionate, and effective. I highly recommend her as a mediator.
Shsavina TehrNi
Shsavina TehrNi
October 10, 2022.
Thank you Leyla for helping us finalize a very difficult journey. We are able to have a better coparenting relationship because of everything you taught us. We are both very grateful for helping us resolve all issues in an amicable manner.
Rachel Hsiung
Rachel Hsiung
March 17, 2022.
Leyla is professional, patient and wonderful person to work with. She’s a good negotiator and listener to help her clients to get amicable results.
Noah Stern
Noah Stern
October 9, 2021.
Layla is a superb mediator. She helped my family through a tough time with ease. I highly recommend Leyla for any family going through a challenging time.
sepideh doust
sepideh doust
March 28, 2021.
Leyla Balakhane was my supervising mediator at children's courthouse. She taught me great communication tools to implement in my mediation practice. She helps the family, social worker, attorneys, and others involved in the case facilitate meaningful discussion and resolve the issues sent to mediation. Her level of wisdom is uncanny. She is able to bring awareness for parents to make the best decision for their family. I would highly recommend her as a skilled mediator in the field of family mediation.
Zak Shapiro
Zak Shapiro
January 22, 2021.
Leyla is an exemplary mediator for couples going through a divorce. She has the couples best interest in mind at all times through out the mediation process. She truly supports couples in making the best decision for them, whether its to help work towards reconciliation or agree on divorce terms. She helps couple find creative and collaborative solutions for their division of assets and debts. She is patient and understanding of what both parties are going though, and she carefully and thoughtfully helps to find a solution. I Cannot recommend her enough!
Matthew Khorsandi
Matthew Khorsandi
September 28, 2020.
Leyla is an incredible mediator with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Most importantly, she genuinely cares for the people she works with. Highly recommend.