Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet & Froehle, LLP

What Are the Different Types of Child Custody?

Are you and your spouse on the verge of getting a divorce? If so, you’re going to have to work your way through so many difficult decisions throughout the divorce process.

If you and your spouse have kids together, figuring out custody & placement will be one of the most important parts of the process. It might also end up being one of the parts that will need to play out through Lake Mills attorneys seeing as how only about one-third of custody & placement decisions are made without either mediators or attorneys being involved.

Learning about the types of custody & placement might be the best place for you and your spouse to start. You may have an easier time coming to an agreement about custody when you know about the differences between, say, sole custody vs joint custody, & the differences between primary physical placement & shared physical placement.

We’re going to walk you through some of the different types of child custody today and help you get a better understanding of custody & placement. We’ll also touch on when you might need to hire a custody lawyer. Keep reading to get the information you need to know.

Legal Custody

Legal custody provides parents with the opportunity to make decisions regarding how their children will be raised. These decisions will usually pertain to things like:

  • When and where children will receive healthcare
  • Which schools children will attend
  • How children will be brought up in a religious sense

When parents have legal custody of their children, they will be able to make these kinds of decisions without having to consult with anyone else. It’s why many Lake Mills lawyers who specialize in child custody law will start things off by discussing legal custody with their clients.

There are two different types of legal child custody that they’ll need to break down for them. We’re going to talk about these types of child custody next.

Sole Legal Custody

When a parent has sole legal custody of a child, they’ll be able to make all of the kinds of decisions that we just mentioned on their own without asking for input from the other parent. They’ll have total control over these decisions at all times.

More often than not, judges will do their best to avoid awarding sole legal custody to just one parent if the other parent is also interested in having this type of child custody. But they might choose to grant sole legal custody to only one parent if:

  • One parent expresses that they don’t want to be involved in their child’s life
  • One parent is considered to be unfit to have legal custody of a child (often due to mental health issues, substance abuse issues, etc.)
  • One parent has been abusive towards either the other parent or a child

In these instances, a judge might decide to give one parent sole legal custody. But in most cases, a judge will try to avoid doing this and will choose to grant joint legal custody to both parents.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is a type of legal custody that involves both parents of a child having a say over the decisions that will impact their life. This is, again, the preferred type of legal custody in many cases.

Oftentimes, the parent who has physical placement of a child (more on this in a moment!) will be in charge of making day-to-day decisions like whether a child should stay home sick from school or if a child can attend an after-school event. But both parents will be able to have input on larger decisions.

There are times when it can be tricky for parents to work together when they have joint legal custody. One parent might not always agree with the other one and may make decisions harder than they have to be. Or one parent might make decisions without telling the other one about them.

But in the event that one parent isn’t abiding by a legal joint custody agreement, the other parent will be able to bring them back to court to remedy the situation. There are Watertown attorneys who can assist them in doing this.

Physical Placement

Physical placement refers to which parent will get to live with and take care of a child on a regular basis. It also refers to when and how the other parent will then get to see a child, if at all.

Determining which parent will get physical placement of a child can sometimes be even more complicated than determining the different aspects of legal custody. But it’s also once again an issue that a good custody lawyer can help a parent out with.

There are two different types of physical placement that they’ll need to explain to them. We’re going to discuss them next.

Sole Physical Custody

For a long time, sole physical placement was the type of physical placement that most judges awarded during family cases. More often than not, the mother of a child would get sole physical placement of them and live with them almost all the time. The father of a child, meanwhile, would get visitation rights with a child and be able to see them every so often.

Some judges will still award sole physical placement to one parent and make them the “custodial parent” who is responsible for housing a child and living with them for the most part. The “noncustodial parent” will then have the right to see their child for a certain amount of time each week depending on the agreement they’ve come to with the custodial parent.

Joint Physical Placement

Joint physical placement is typically the preferred option among parents trying to work out custody agreements these days. This type of physical placement will call for a child to spend close to equal amounts of time with each of their parents.

There will sometimes still technically be a custodial parent and noncustodial parent. But they won’t usually have physical placement of a child all the time. Instead, parents will figure out an arrangement that allows each of them to see their child for an equal amount of time.

In some cases, children involved in joint physical placement arrangements will spend four days with one parent and then three days with the other and continue doing this in the coming years. In other instances, parents will alternate weeks or even months to give them longer periods of time with their kids.

Lake Mills lawyers will many times have to put their heads together to come up with joint physical placement arrangements that work well for both parents.

Sole Placement vs. Full Placement: Are They the Same?

One thing we’d like to mention after breaking down the difference between sole and joint physical placement is that you’ll sometimes hear the term “full placement” get used. People will often make the mistake of thinking it’s the same thing as sole placement, but it isn’t.

So, what is the difference between sole placement vs full placement? Well, when it comes to physical placement, full placement refers to one parent getting complete placement of a child. They’ll live with this child all the time, and the other parent won’t have any physical placement of them.

Full placement is a relatively rare concept these days, as many judges would like to try to make sure that a child is able to get at least a little access to both parents. But a judge might give a parent full placement if the other parent:

  • Has a mental health issue that impacts their ability to be left alone with their child
  • Is dealing with an untreated substance abuse issue
  • Has been accused of child abuse
  • Doesn’t have the ability to provide safe housing
  • Is incarcerated

It can be a challenge to get a judge to award you full placement of your children. But a good family lawyer will be able to help you fight this battle if you feel as though it would be worth it.

Speak With a Lawyer About the Types of Custody & Placement

Now that you know more about the types of child custody, would you like to begin working with a custody & placement lawyer? Our Watertown Law Office and Lake Mills Law Office are here to help.

We can talk to you more about your upcoming custody & placement case and work with you to try to get the most favorable outcome possible for you and your child or children. We can also help clear up any confusion about family law.

Contact us today to get more information about our family law services.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.


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