In terms of custody, there are two types of custody under the law, physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody involves the traditional notion of custody. It involves the home base of a child.
Parties can have sole physical custody or the litigants can share joint physical custody and typically, a joint physical custody arrangement would involve an equal division of parenting time between one house and another. If one parent has sole physical custody, typically the child will spend more time with the sole physical custodian, and the other parent will have a reasonable amount of parenting time.
In terms of legal custody, that describes the ability of each parent to play a role in the major decisions that are made on behalf of a child on things like education, religion, or healthcare. Now the law presumes that litigants will share legal custody. That presumption can be overcome if one party can demonstrate that there’s a complete inability of the parties to get along with one another.
The vast majority of the time with the cases that we handle, an award of joint legal custody is deemed appropriate, but there are some circumstances where there’s been perhaps a history of domestic abuse or some other anger issue with one of the parties to the marriage that just deprives them of an opportunity to really have good discussions about how to resolve issues surrounding their kids. And again, in those circumstances, the court would likely grant sole legal custody to one of the parents.
In terms of physical custody, the law presumes that one parent will be the sole physical custodian and that presumption can be overcome if one of the litigants can demonstrate that both parents have played a very co-equal role in the upbringing of the children.
Courts tend to like to see people getting along reasonably well, despite their marital differences. They typically like to have the litigants living close to one another following the divorce, and there generally cannot be a history of domestic abuse.
So physical custody, legal custody, those are the two issues that are dealt with in the court system surrounding the care and control and decisions surrounding children.