A child custody case is usually brought to court when issues regarding shared parenting, visitation rights, or child support payments cannot be resolved. The court will then decide on what form of physical and legal custody meets the best interests of the child, who will be the custodial parent and have both parties agree on an arrangement. There are different types of child custody which one can petition before a judge and each is associated with certain parental rights and responsibilities.

This guide discusses the meaning of sole custody and joint custody, differentiates legal from physical custody, and gives an overview of parental obligation associated with the different types of custody.

Parental Rights Associated with Legal Custody

parental rights Having legal custody means having the right to make decisions about a minor child’s education, medical care, and even religious upbringing. The court may either rule in favor of the other parent and award full legal custody or decide to grant both the rights to be involved in the decision making process, in which case joint legal custody is in place. If you believe that it would be impossible to share custody with the other party, you must provide substantial arguments and explain your circumstance to convince the family court judge on how it may be detrimental to the child.

Living arrangements in a Physical Custody

While legal custody is concerned with who gets to decide on the child’s welfare, physical custody deals with the living arrangements and time spent between a parent and child. This may either be in the form of “sole physical custody” or “joint physical custody”. Under the latter, both parties have parenting time rights. This setup is ideal if they live within the same neighborhood as it avoids undue stress on the child who does not have to be shuttled back and forth.

With whom the child resides with is referred to as the custodial parent. In a custody case where a father or mother is granted primary physical custody, the time spent by the other party with the child will be determined in the court’s visitation order and schedule.

The Legalities of Having Sole Custody

A court order gives custody of a child only after deeming the parent “fit”. Some instances where a mother or father is ruled as “unfit” include having a record for alcohol use or domestic violence, being drug-dependent, or having pending charges for child neglect and abuse.

Most states favor having divorced parents play a role in their children’s lives, as long as the parent-child relationship is positive. This means that even if one party gets to primarily live with his child, he may still be legally obliged to share parenting decisions with his former spouse.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Joint Child Custody

When parents get separated, divorced, or are no longer living together, they need to come to an agreement on child care matters. If a custody dispute ensues, under the Arizona legal system, the Superior Court will make a decision. But if both parties agree to share parental responsibility on their offspring, a custody attorney would usually recommend filing for joint custody.

Joint custody may take two forms. Under joint physical custody, housing arrangements, primary residence, child visitations, and parenting time are discussed. Usually, parents take turns living with the child for a few weeks, months, or years. In rare cases, the mother and father alternately move in and out of the family house, which is referred to as nesting. On the other hand, having joint legal custody simply means that both have parental rights.

Since joint custody laws allow the involvement of both parents in a child’s life and help to alleviate the burden of parenting, it is usually preferred. However, there are some drawbacks to this kind of custody. First, the child will have to be transported back and forth between the parents’ residences. Second, the maintenance of two homes for the child can be costly, especially if only one parent is paying for a house. Lastly, disputes on financial matters may occur. For instance, a parent may feel that he is paying more for child care costs, in which case the family court may request the other party to present financial records and prove how he has been supporting his child.

If you have other questions governing child custody laws, thinking about filing for full custody or considering mediation, you may get in touch with Zolman Law, the #1 rated law firm in Maricopa County, Arizona. Our experienced custody attorneys will help you know your rights and meet the best interest of your child. You may contact us at (480) 418-2917 to schedule a free initial consultation.