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Divorced parents with attorney deciding on child custody

Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody 

The Spence Law Firm  June 4, 2024

Custody arrangements can significantly impact both parents and children following a separation or divorce. Understanding the fundamental differences between sole custody and joint custody is essential for making informed decisions that serve the best interests of the child.  

Sole custody refers to one parent having both legal and physical custody of the child, meaning that parent is responsible for making major decisions about the child's welfare and the child primarily resides with them. In contrast, joint custody involves both parents sharing legal or physical custody, or both, which allows for more balanced involvement in the child's life.  

Each arrangement has its own set of advantages and challenges, and the right choice depends on various factors including the parents' relationship and the child's needs. 

Here at The Spence Law Firm, we're dedicated to helping clients in Orlando, Florida, and the surrounding areas through this often stressful process. Let’s break down what these terms mean and how they might impact your family. 

Child Custody in Florida

In the state of Florida, child custody decisions, legally referred to as "time-sharing", are made based on the best interests of the child. This encompasses a variety of factors, such as the child's age, health, and emotional ties to each parent, as well as each parent's ability to provide a stable and loving environment.  

Florida law encourages both parents to maintain substantial and meaningful contact with their children whenever possible, which often leads to the consideration of joint custody arrangements.  

However, this does not guarantee an equal split of time; rather, it focuses on a custody plan that serves the child's well-being. 

Understanding Sole Custody

Sole custody means that one parent has exclusive rights over the child's upbringing. This includes both physical and legal custody: 

  • Physical Custody: The child lives with only one parent, who is responsible for their daily care and shelter. 

  • Legal Custody: The parent with sole custody has the right to make all significant decisions regarding the child's welfare, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. 

Sole custody, while less common than joint custody, may be granted in situations where one parent is deemed unfit due to issues like substance abuse, domestic violence, or criminal activity. In these cases, sole custody ensures the child’s safety and stability by placing primary responsibility on one parent. The non-custodial parent may still have visitation rights unless it is determined harmful to the child.  

Understanding Joint Custody

Joint custody involves both parents sharing responsibilities for their child's upbringing. This arrangement can be further divided into: 

  • Joint Physical Custody: The child spends significant time living with both parents. This doesn’t always mean an equal split; the exact arrangement can vary based on what works best for the child's needs and the parents' schedules. 

  • Joint Legal Custody: Both parents share the responsibility of making important decisions about the child's life. This requires a high level of cooperation, communication, and compromise between the parents. 

Joint custody is often encouraged as it allows both parents to remain actively involved in their child's life, provided they can work together effectively.  

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Understanding the distinction between physical and legal custody is crucial: 

  • Physical Custody: Refers to where the child lives. In joint physical custody, the child splits time between both parents' homes. 

  • Legal Custody: Involves decision-making authority. Joint legal custody means both parents must agree on major decisions affecting the child's life. 

It's possible to have one form of joint custody without the other. For instance, parents might share legal custody while one has sole physical custody, especially if geographical distance makes equal physical sharing impractical. 

Which Custody Arrangement Is Right for You?

The answer to this question depends on various factors unique to each family situation. Some of the key considerations include: 

  • The relationship and level of cooperation between the parents

  • The child's age and emotional needs

  • Each parent's ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment

  • Any potential safety concerns for the child

At The Spence Law Firm, we understand that every family’s circumstances are different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to child custody arrangements. Our experienced attorney can assess your specific case and guide you toward making the best decision for your child's well-being. 

Factors Influencing Custody Decisions

In Florida, courts prioritize the child's best interests when determining custody arrangements. Some factors considered include: 

  • Each parent's ability to provide a stable, loving environment

  • The child's relationship with each parent

  • The mental and physical health of both parents

  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse

For comprehensive legal assistance with your child custody matters, contact us at The Spence Law Firm for a free consultation with a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney. We proudly serve clients throughout Orange County, Florida, and the nearby communities, including Oak Ridge, Pine Hills, Lockhart, Maitland, Azalea Park, Osceola County, Lake County, and Seminole County. 

Partner With The Spence Law Firm

Choosing the right legal support can make a significant difference in the outcome of your custody case. The Spence Law Firm offers a deep understanding of Florida custody laws and a commitment to advocating for your best interests. Serving clients throughout Orange County and the surrounding areas, we aim to ensure that you and your family navigate this challenging time with as much ease as possible. 

If you're facing a custody battle or need guidance on your options, contact us today. Let’s set up a consultation to discuss your case and how we can achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children. 

For more information or to schedule a consultation, reach out to The Spence Law Firm. We're here to help you every step of the way.