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What Does Primary Physical Custody Mean?

What Does Primary Physical Custody Mean?

September 28, 2023

By Johnson/Turner Legal

What Does Primary Physical Custody Mean?

September 28, 2023

By Johnson/Turner Legal

When you’re going through a divorce, different types of custody agreements will likely be mentioned. What does primary physical custody mean?

More than 71,000 people in the United States alone work in the family law and divorce lawyer industry.

One of the top reasons there is so much demand for the services of family law attorneys is that many parents are devoted to receiving primary physical custody of their children. At the same time, not every parent understands this kind of child custody and what it might mean for them and their child.

It is vital that you understand some of the details about primary physical custody to make sure that you navigate your own legal situation as well as possible. So what does primary physical custody mean, and what determines who receives it?

Read on to learn all about the most vital details to understand about primary physical custody!

Understanding Types of Child Custody

The two main kinds of custody it is important to understand are legal custody and physical custody. In most cases, both parents receive joint legal custody of their children.

This gives both parents the right to make significant decisions about things like healthcare and education for their children. Unless one parent is unfit, it is almost always a simple decision for the court to award joint legal custody to both parents.

In contrast, physical custody can be a much more difficult decision for a court to make. Physical custody determines where the child in question will live.

Even if both parents would do a good job taking care of their child, the court will still need to decide how often the child will stay with each parent. In some cases, both parents receive equal physical custody of the child. However, when one parent receives more custody than the other, that makes them the holder of primary physical custody in the vast majority of cases.

That means that many custody agreements end up providing for joint legal custody for both parents while providing one parent with primary physical custody.

There are also instances in which one parent will receive sole custody of the child. In that case, they will have the right to have the child live with them all the time.

How Custody Orders Are Determined

One of the reasons that it is so difficult for courts to decide how to award physical custody is that there are so many factors to consider. As a general rule, the main priority of the court will be to come up with a custody arrangement that will be as beneficial as possible for the child.

Parental Ability to Care for the Child

One of the most vital factors for determining primary physical custody is whether or not a parent is able to provide for a child’s needs. Some people have misconceptions about this factor in custody agreements. They imagine that whichever parent has more money will receive more physical custody.

However, being able to provide luxuries for your child may not be an important priority in the mind of the court. As long as both parents have a financial situation that allows them to provide care for their child, they are both candidates for receiving custody.

Of course, courts consider the ability to care for a child’s physical and emotional needs as well as their financial ones.

Providing Time and Affection for the Child

After going through a difficult divorce, many children need a lot of extra time and affection to feel secure again. The court will consider which parent might be able to do a better job providing affection for the child in question if they were to receive primary physical custody.

One important point to note here is that courts know that it can be best for a child to be able to spend time with both of their parents. So what if one parent is unwilling to allow their child to see the other parent? The court might think that will provide a less beneficial situation for the child.

It is true that one parent will receive primary physical custody. However, they may receive that legal right on the basis of their willingness to allow the other parent to be involved as well.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If a parent has been abusive or violent in the past, it might be better for the child for the other parent to receive primary physical custody. That goes double if the other parent has any tendency to engage in criminal behavior or to abuse substances.

Considering Parental Fitness

Aside from these major problems, courts will also consider subtler indicators of parental fitness. For example, what if a parent is extremely critical of a child? That might make them less fit relative to the other parent.

The same applies if one parent tends to isolate themselves and provides little emotional support for their child.

Providing Stability for the Child

On top of everything else, courts often take stability into account when deciding who will receive primary physical custody of a child. It can be hard for children to go through huge changes. If awarding custody to one parent would require a child to change schools, that can be a relevant factor.

The court might award custody to whichever parent can help their child maintain as many of their life habits as possible.

The Wishes of the Child

Of course, another huge factor that can affect primary physical custody is which parent the child would prefer to stay with. At the same time, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the child’s wishes alone can determine the outcome of a custody battle. If a child does not have strong reasons for their preferences, the court may place less emphasis on their wishes.

Understand the Details of Primary Physical Custody

It can be hard to win primary physical custody if you don’t know much about it. We hope that this article has helped you understand more about child custody and what kind of factors affect who receives it. Of course, receiving the best legal counsel will also have an enormous effect on who receives custody in your own case.

To learn more about how you can find the best child custody attorney for your unique needs, contact us here at any time!


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