For divorcing couples with children, understanding the types of child custody is an immediate and critical concern. Unfortunately, many people find the subject frustrating and confusing. In order to understand the child custody process, it is necessary to become familiar with several legal definitions and terms-of-art. First, two different types of custody apply to minor children in New York. These are “legal custody” and “physical custody.”
Legal v. Physical Custody
Legal custody refers to the parent’s role in making important decisions affecting the welfare of the child. A parent with legal custody is able to make decisions regarding the health, education, and religious upbringing of his or her child. Typically, New York courts favor joint legal custody so that both parents share the responsibility of making these decisions for their children.
In joint custody situations, the parents must agree on important decisions relating to their children. If a parent is granted sole legal custody, this means that only the custodial parent will be able to make these decisions. In contrast, physical custody refers to the practical, day-to-day arrangements for the care of the child. A parent with physical custody has the right to have his or her child live in that parent’s home.
Different Types of Child Custody Arrangements
There are several different physical custody arrangements that are possible, depending on the circumstances and the “best interests” of the child, as determined by the court:
- Sole Custody. In a sole custody arrangement, the child lives exclusively with one parent.
- Primary Custody. Primary physical custody refers to an arrangement whereby the child lives more than 50 percent of the time with one parent but may spend a lesser amount of time living at the home of the other parent. The parent with primary custody is considered the custodian, while the other parent is the non-custodial.
- Joint Physical Custody. Joint physical custody (or “shared custody) refers to an arrangement whereby the parents share the custody of their child on 50/50 basis or on fairly equal terms. Under these arrangements, the care of the child is usually undertaken according to a court-ordered schedule or “parenting plan,” which sets forth which parents will be responsible for care and custody on which days.
- Alternating Custody. Alternating custody is an arrangement whereby the child lives for an extended period of time with one parent, and then alternate to live for an extended period of time with the other parent. This type of child custody is sometimes referred to as “divided custody.”
- Split Custody. Split custody refers to an arrangement where one parent has sole custody of one or more children and the other parent has sole custody of the other child or children. For example, a divorcing couple might agree to have their daughter live with her mother, but to have their son live his father.
- Bird’s Nest Custody. Bird’s nest custody is an arrangement whereby the child remains full-time in one residence, and the parents alternate going back and forth from the residence to reside with the children. This arrangement intends to place the burden of upheaval and movement on the parents rather than their children.
- Third-party Custody. Third-party custody refers to an arrangement where the children do not remain with either parent but instead are placed in the custody of a third person.
Do You Have Further Questions About the Types of Child Custody?
The New York child custody attorneys at Alatsas Law Firm, have the skill and experience necessary to help you navigate child custody process and to ensure that both your parental rights and the interests of your child are protected. Contact Alatsas Law Firm today, at (718)-233-2903.