1. People & Relationships
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

The Difference Between Physical Custody and Joint Physical Custody


Smiling family hugging
Blend Images - KidStock/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Parents going through the divorce process may be given either physical custody or joint physical custody.

Physical Custody:

If a parent is awarded physical custody the child resides with that parent and a visitation schedule is set up for the other parent. You divorce decree may state that you have “physical custody” or “sole physical custody.”

For example, your child may live with his/her mother the majority of time and “visit” with you every other weekend. Courts are fairly open-minded when it comes to a visitation schedule. If you are a parent who does not or cannot take sole physical custody you have the right to request “liberal” visitation with your child.

The mistake some non-custodial parents make is not defining what “liberal” mean. If you are the non-custodial parent it is in your best interest that your final divorce decree plainly state your visitation schedule.

If you desire visitation with your child every other weekend and one night during the week make sure you list what night the child is to spend with you during the week. Having a divorce decree that states “one night during the week” leaves you open to conflict when negotiating with your ex exactly which night your child will be with you.

The same can be said for visitation during Holidays. Have your decree plainly state pick-up and drop off times and dates.

Joint Physical Custody:

If you and your ex share joint physical custody, custody of your child will be split 50/50 or something close to that percentage. Joint physical custody, sometimes called equal or shared custody is becoming more and more commonplace in today’s divorces.

More fathers are requesting and being given the right to have equal parenting time with their children after a divorce. For this to work the parents have to live close together and in most situations is the best option for the child.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.