There are 7 types of child custody arrangements. These can be confusing, especially when you first start looking and trying to figure out what is best for your situation. It is important to know exactly what you want.
So, let's break them down.
Joint Custody is a court order in which the custody of a child is awarded to both parties. This “shared” arrangement could apply to a physical custody arrangement and/or the legal custody over the child
Primary Custody is a court order that assigns the care and control of the child primarily in the hands of one parent. This physical custody arrangement can vary, but which ever parent has greater percentage of custody over the child is considered to have primary custody.
Sole Custody is a court order that awards the physical custody of a child solely in the hands of one parent. This parent is considered the “custodial parent”. The other parent is considered the “non-custodial parent” and is generally granted visitation rights.
Legal custody is the assignment of authority and responsibility to the parent(s) over the child. Having legal custody gives you the right to make decisions about your child’s upbringing, including medical care, schooling, nutrition, etc. A Joint Legal Custody arrangement means that decision making responsibilities are shared by both parents.
Physical Custody is a court ordered arrangement that determines which parent the child resides with and at what percentage. A Joint Physical Custody arrangement is often referred to as a “50/50” if the custody schedule allows the child to live with both parents equally, 50% of the month; however Joint Physical Custody can assign varying physical custody percentages, as long as both parents are awarded “significant periods” of time with the child each month.
Divided Custody is a court ordered arrangement that means each parent has, on an alternating schedule, physical custody for a portion of the year. The decision making responsibilities are not shared, they are only assigned to the parent who currently has physical custody. An example Divided Custody arrangement: the child resides with the Father during the school year and with the Mother during summer and winter vacation.
Split Custody is a court ordered arrangement that could occur when there is more than one child between the parents. Each parent is awarded primary physical custody of one or more of the children. This type of arrangement has the potential to create emotional upheaval between siblings.