Sole vs Shared Custody: What to Know

The Difference Between Sole vs Shared Custody

It is extremely important that anyone facing a potential custody battle with an ex-partner or ex-spouse understands that there are two different types of custody in New Jersey, legal and physical custody. Within these two types of custody, the parents of the child can either have a shared custody order or agreement, or a sole custody order or agreement. This is an important distinction because a common misconception that people believe if one parent is granted sole physical custody, that they automatically are able to make all decisions regarding the child’s medical decisions, education, activities, etc., which is simply untrue.

The primary difference between the two is that physical custody determines the daily care of the child while legal custody determines decision making for the child. To be more specific, physical custody is more day to day decisions while legal custody is decisions regarding the health, welfare and education of the child.

Below is a breakdown of possible custody determinations:

  • One parent can be granted sole physical and legal custody.
  • Both parents can be granted joint physical and legal custody.
  • One parent can be granted sole physical custody, but the parties could share joint legal custody

** IMPORTANT NOTE: It is extremely uncommon practice for one parent to be granted sole legal custody if there is joint physical custody.

The New Jersey Legislature has determined that it is strong public policy to ensure minor children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents are no longer in a relationship or dissolved their marriage. It is also strong public policy to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities to their children.

In terms of physical custody, in a joint physical custody agreement or order, one person will be deemed the custodial parent, or the parent of primary residence, and the other parent will be deemed the noncustodial parent or the parent of alternate residence. It is important to note that just because one parent is deemed the custodial parent, it does not give this parent the sole right to make all decisions for their child without input of the other parent.

In situations where parties cannot agree to a joint custody scenario or where one parent is absent and the other parent is seeking sole custody, the court must determine custody by way of a hearing. During this hearing, the court will look at numerous factors while determining what the best interest of the parties’ child or children is.

If you would like to learn more about custody in divorce matters, the skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey attorneys at Lyons & Associates have extensive experience in addressing this issue. We invite you to contact us online or give us a call at our office at 908-575-9777 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

By: Nicole Rohan, Esq.