What are the rights are of a parent who has joint custody of a child as opposed to one that has sole custody?
Joint v. Sole Custody
Please explain what the rights are of a parent who has joint custody of a child as opposed to one that has sole custody? My husband is going overseas and wants sole custody of our two children. I want to know what my rights would be if he did have sole custody and if I only agreed to joint custody.
The courts are reluctant to award sole custody to a party as this severely curtails the powers of the non-custodian parent. For example, a parent with sole custody could stipulate in his or her will that a third party (rather than the non custodian parent) should be appointed as guardian of the child in the event of the death of that parent.
According to Findlaw, a parent with “sole custody” of a child has exclusive physical and legal custody rights concerning the child. Sole custody arrangements are rare, and are usually limited to situations in which one parent has been deemed unfit or incapable of having any form of responsibility over a child – for example, due to drug addiction or evidence of child abuse. In sole custody situations, the child’s other parent (also known as the “non-custodial” parent) has neither physical nor legal custody rights, but may be entitled to periods of visitation with the child (though those visits may be supervised, especially in situations involving domestic violence or child abuse).
Example: Mother and Father have divorced, due to Father’s substance abuse and addiction. Mother seeks and is granted sole custody of Child. This means that Mother alone has legal authority to decide key issues related to Child’s upbringing, and Child will live exclusively with Mother. Father may be entitled to visitation with Child.
In child custody situations, “joint custody” usually refers to one of two possible scenarios: joint legal and physical custody, or joint legal custody.
In true “joint custody” arrangements, parents share equal “legal custody” and “physical custody” rights. This means that parents participate equally in making decisions about the child’s upbringing and welfare, and split time evenly in having day-to-day care and responsibility for the child – including the parent’s right to have the child live with them. True joint custody arrangements are rare, because of their potential to cause both personal difficulties (stress, disruption of child’s routine) and practical problems (scheduling, costs of maintaining two permanent living spaces for the child).
Example: Mother and Father are divorced, and agree to a true joint custody arrangement over Child. Mother and Father will work together to reach agreement on all major issues concerning Child’s welfare and upbringing (legal custody), and agree to a schedule where Child lives with each parent for one month at a time (physical custody).
Much more common than true joint custody arrangements (where both physical and legal custody are shared) is “joint legal custody,” in which both parents share the right to make long-term decisions about the raising of a child and key aspects of the child’s welfare, with physical custody awarded to one parent.
Example: Mother and Father are divorced, and decide to share joint legal custody of Child, but also agree that Mother should have primary physical custody of Child. Mother and Father will work together to reach agreement on all major issues concerning Child’s welfare and upbringing (legal custody), but Child will live primarily with Mother.