Understanding Child Custody: What You Need to Know

by | Jan 17, 2024

Child custody is one of the most emotionally charged and complex aspects of family law. When parents decide to part ways, it becomes necessary to determine how the responsibilities and rights for the children will be divided. Understanding child custody and the different arrangements available is crucial for parents facing this challenging situation.

In this blog post, we will dive into the various terms used to determine child custody and the important considerations that parents, courts, and legal professionals take into account when making custody arrangements.

The Child’s Well-Being: The Breakdown

Courts consider the child’s well-being by examining two separate factors: (1) where the child will live and (2) who will make decisions concerning the child’s life. These two factors may vary, with decisions shared equally between parents or granted to only one.

  1. Physical Custody: Physical custody refers to where the child primarily resides. Sometimes, the child lives in one parent’s home the majority of the time, while in other cases, the child splits their time equally between both parents’ homes. An interesting arrangement called “Bird’s Nest Custody” is also available. In this plan, the child remains in one home, while the parents take turns living there according to a custody schedule. This minimizes disruptions to the child’s routine.
  2. Legal Custody: Legal custody concerns the decision-making authority for the child’s welfare. This includes decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Like physical custody, it can be sole or joint, with one parent making decisions or both parents deciding together.

It’s important to note that each custody hearing is unique, and not always are both factors decided the same way. For example, while 50/50 physical custody may be granted, legal custody may only go to one parent.

The Parent’s Authority: Sole or Joint

In discussions about child custody, there is often a focus on whether the parent has sole or joint custody. While these terms are essential to understand, we must be cautious not to center this process on “parental power.” Doing so can overshadow the child’s best interests and place them on the back burner.

Sole Custody: Sole custody grants one parent exclusive rights to make decisions over everything. This parent will be in charge of choosing both where the child lives and the decisions about their life. The non-custodial parent may still have visitation rights.

Joint Custody: Joint custody allows both parents to share responsibilities and time with the child. It can be joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or a combination of both.

Remember, while these terms will be addressed during the process, do not let them become the centerpiece of this difficult situation. The child(ren) should always be the main priority. The primary goal is to ensure the child is safe, happy, and in a stable and loving place, even if their parents can’t be together anymore.

Considerations for Child Custody Arrangements

  1. Child’s Best Interests: Courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. Factors considered include the child’s age, health, emotional well-being, relationship with each parent, and stability.
  2. Parenting Abilities: The court assesses each parent’s ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child. Factors such as employment, living conditions, and lifestyle may be evaluated.
  3. Child’s Wishes: Depending on their age and maturity, the child’s preferences may be considered, although they are not the sole determining factor.
  4. Cooperation between Parents: Courts look favorably upon parents who can demonstrate a willingness to cooperate and facilitate a healthy co-parenting relationship.
  5. History of Abuse or Neglect: Any history of abuse, neglect, or violence can significantly impact custody decisions. The safety of the child is of uppermost importance.
  6. Proximity of Residences: The geographical location of parents’ residences can affect the practicality of joint custody and visitation schedules.
  7. Stability and Continuity: Maintaining a stable and consistent environment for the child is crucial. Frequent changes in living arrangements or schools may be taken into account.
  8. Cultural and Religious Considerations: The child’s cultural and religious upbringing can be a consideration, especially when parents have differing beliefs.


Child custody can be really tough and emotional, but what matters most is the well-being of your kids. At Klein Law Group, our team of experienced family lawyers are here to help families like yours during these challenging times. We know that every custody situation is different, and we want to make sure your child’s best interests come first. We’ll work with you to create a plan that helps your child thrive in a stable and loving environment, even if you and your partner are separating or getting a divorce.

If you have any questions or need help with child custody issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at 561.353.2800 or fill out the form on this page. We’re here to walk you through the process and provide the support you need to make the right choices for your family’s future. Your child’s well-being is our top priority, and we’re dedicated to helping you achieve the best outcome for your family.

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