Did you know that 2 to 3 people out of every 1,000 individuals get divorced at some point? Divorce rates have climbed considerably over the last few decades, making issues like child custody common situations. How can you handle child custody in divorce while prioritizing your child’s wellbeing?

If you’re curious to learn about child care during your divorce, we’re here to help guide you. Read on to learn about the types of child custody and how to arrive at a mutual agreement regarding custody.

Types of Child Custody

There are multiple types of child custody that may catch you off-guard. Custody isn’t as clear-cut as one partner getting the child and that being the end of the situation. Here are some of the many types of custody following a divorce.

Sole Physical and Joint Physical

Physical custody is the first thing that crosses the minds of many divorced couples. As the name suggests, physical custody is who has physical “possession” of the child, so to speak.

Sole physical custody is a situation wherein one parent has full physical custody over the child. The other parent may have the ability to visit, but they won’t be the primary guardian over the child.

For sole custody, it’s important for you and your former spouse to ask several questions. Who will the child stay with, and how difficult will these be for the children? How important is this stability for your child, and how involved should your ex be in your child’s life?

Sole physical custody often is the result of a significant falling out between partners. One parent may be unfit for custody through criminal actions, abuse, or substance dependence. A parent may also decide they want nothing to do with a child or their spouse and grant sole custody to cut ties.

Joint physical is custody that involves both partners, typically in a 50-50 split. If parents cannot reach an agreement, courts often impose and enforce a schedule.

Joint custody often alternates weeks, months, or holidays at each parent’s home. Such an arrangement allows a child to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents.

Visitation Rights

In many situations, one parent will become the “custodial” parent. The custodial parent shoulders the bulk of raising the child, such as housing them and bringing them to school.

The non-custodial parent will then be given an arranged visitation schedule. However, the non-custodial parent cannot take the child or children from the custodial parent without consent. To do so without consent is a crime that often falls under kidnapping.

These arrangements are common if the custodial parent fears the non-custodial parent’s treatment. They may have a history of abuse or not be responsible enough to handle a child’s safety. 

Legal Custody

Legal custody is a parent’s right to make decisions on the child’s upbringing. These decisions include:

  • Religious education or upbringing
  • Medical care and insurance decisions
  • Education and what school the child will attend
  • Where the child will live

Legal custody is often shared between both parents. However, there are many situations where a court will award legal custody to one parent. In this event, the legal custodian has full reign over legal decisions for the children.


Finally, third-party custody is when custody is awarded to neither of the child’s parents. A family friend, relative, or other guardian may claim custody over the child. Common terms are “non-parental custody” and “guardianship.”

Such an arrangement occurs if neither parent is capable or willing to raise a child. It’s also common in the event of a child becoming orphaned. 

Reaching a Child Custody Agreement

Now that we understand some of the most common types of child custody agreements, we can look into how to reach common ground. Many divorces are clean and mutual, making custody a relatively easy situation.

However, in many cases, divorce is the result of significant issues between two parents. There may have been infidelity, abuse, or a mismatching of personal ideals.

Here are some tips as to how to negotiate a fair and healthy custody agreement.

Peaceful Discussions

The first step to reaching a child custody agreement is to keep discussions peaceful. It’s common for divorcing couples to have severe incompatibility with each other.

If the divorce is in the wake of the actions of one partner, such as cheating, tempers can run hot. It’s crucial not to let these feelings impact the custodial discussions.

That said, peace is a goal, but don’t roll over on your convictions. If your spouse was abusive, it’s perfectly understandable to fight for sole custody. Each situation is unique, so exercise your best judgment.

Child’s Wellbeing First

Your top priority should be the wellbeing of your children, even if it means swallowing your pride. While negotiating both physical and legal custody, keep them in mind.

Is it best for your child to have a healthy relationship with both parents? Are you concerned of your former partner’s influence on the child? Should you forsake custody out of fear that you can’t properly support the child?

If child support is on the line, keep the discussion to the child. Many divorces lead to one party attempting to negotiate high child support so they can enjoy the extra income. Do your best to reach a fair, equitable child support agreement that helps your children.


Another factor to think of is the distance. If you live in New York, will your spouse be moving out of town or state? How will this distance affect your child?

Such distances typically only matter for joint custody. Should one partner opt to move too far away to easily visit, that’s the partner’s choice. In sole custody agreements, the child’s guardian will decide their geographical location.

Handling Child Custody in Divorce

Child custody is a stressful and serious thing to negotiate that you can’t shirk. Make sure you’re keeping your children at the forefront of your mind during child custody negotiations. Work in their best interest and emphasis child care during the talks.

For more information on handling life after a divorce, be sure to browse our site.