Florida Divorce Law: Understanding the Different Types of Child Custody

FatherCustody.jpg As a Florida divorce attorney, I find that many of my clients are unaware of the different types of child custody that can be considered as part of a Florida divorce settlement.

In a Florida divorce action that involves minor children, there are four different kinds of child custody to be considered:

Legal Custody – Legal custody means you have both the right and the obligation to make important decisions about your child. This includes education, religion and medical care. In many cases, both parents are awarded legal custody of minor children and share the decision-making responsibility. If joint legal custody is awarded and one parent continually excludes the other from decisions about the child, that parent can be taken back to court for enforcement of the joint legal custody order.

Physical Custody – Physical custody means that one parent is given the right for the child to live with him or her. In some cases, joint physical custody is awarded – usually when both parents live near each other and the child’s life will not be unduly interrupted. In sole physical custody cases, the child lives with one parent and the other parent is granted visitation rights.

Sole Custody – A parent can have either sole legal custody or sole physical custody, or both if one parent has a history of unstable behavior such as physical or substance abuse, or criminal behavior. The courts usually prefer that parents share legal custody so both continue to play a significant role in the lives of their children.

Joint Custody – Parents can have joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both joint legal and physical custody. Parents who share joint custody usually work out a schedule based on the child’s needs, which is approved by the court. The advantage of joint custody is that it keeps both parents involved in the child’s life. Disadvantages can occur when one parent is uncooperative or harbors significant ill will toward the other, which can result in serious negative effects on the children.