Understanding Child Custody

Posted on: March 28th, 2013 by Scott Law

To understand your child custody options, you first need to familiarize yourself with legal terminology used by lawyers. According to Arizona child custody laws, there are two types of child custody one can have (1) physical custody, and (2) legal custody. Let us look at these in some detail.

Physical custody

This is also known as parenting time as it refers to the person who has the majority of the parenting time with the minor children. Physical custody can be further explained as follows:

Joint physical custody: This is also known as shared custody. Here, the children spend a certain number of days in a week (or year) with one parent and the remaining days with the other. The time can be divided almost equally between the parents.

Sole physical custody: In this situation, the child primarily resides with one parent. The other parent may have visitation rights, which can be supervised, unsupervised, and involve visits on a less frequent basis than in a joint or equal custody situation.

Bird’s nest custody: In this situation, the children do not move around to be with parents. Instead, the parents are expected to visit the children according to the time allotted to each of them. The mother may reside with children for the first few days and the father may then come in for the remaining days.  This allows the children to maintain a steady residence and enjoy the familiar surroundings with both parents.

Legal custody:

First, in Arizona, child custody is now referred to by the courts as “Legal Decision-Making.”  This deals with the legal authority that enables the parents to make decisions concerning their children such as education, non-emergency medical treatments, and religious upbringing. Legal custody is further classified as follows:

Sole legal custody: If one of the parents has the sole legal custody/sole legal decision-making authority, he/she becomes the only person who has the authority to make major decisions concerning the child.

Joint legal custody: Here both parents have the authority to make major decisions. A parent who has joint legal custody need not necessarily have joint physical custody.

It is wise to hire an expert attorney to decide between joint vs sole custody so that you can live with the decision comfortably both now and in the future.