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What is the difference between joint custody and sole custody?

During the process of separating or divorcing your spouse, of primary concern is which one of you will get custody of the children. Unless you and your ex-partner have a reasonable custody and visitation agreement, the courts will decide who to award primary/sole or joint custody to. The courts base custody decisions on the best interests of the child. 

Legal custody refers to decision-making authority, and physical custody refers to living arrangements. Here is more information about your child custody options. 

What is sole custody?

Only one parent can receive sole custody. If the court determines it is necessary, it will give you or the other parent sole legal authority over the children’s well-being and whereabouts at all times. This includes their living situation. 

Sole custody is not an automatic decision. If you want to receive sole custody, you must prove the other guardian is unsafe/unfit. 

What is joint custody?

Joint custody enables you and the other parent to legally share physical and legal custody of your children. Splitting custody evenly (50-50) is not always feasible. Often, one parent receives considerably more custody time than the other. It is also common for one guardian to have physical custody and the other, legal custody. If you and the other parent end up with joint custody, you are both responsible for the well-being of your children and should consult with each other before making parenting decisions. 

To establish custody, the courts take into consideration multiple factors, including the lifestyle and overall suitability of each of you to meet your children’s best interests.