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Custody of Minor Children in a Divorce

Both parents must decide on the custody of minor children under the age of 18. Divorce courts are concerned about the well-being of any children born naturally or adopted by the parents.

There are four basic types of child custody recognized under state laws:

  1. Sole Physical Custody: Sole physical custody means the children shall reside with and under the supervision of one parent. The court must approve the parent's plan for the other parent's visitation rights.

  2. Joint Physical Custody: Joint physical custody means each of the parents will have significant periods of physical custody. In other words, both parents will have more or less continuing contact with the children.

  3. Sole Legal Custody: Sole legal custody means one parent shall have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children. The other parent retains visitation rights. Although the courts favor joint legal custody, sole legal custody is the most common custody arrangement.

  4. Joint Legal Custody: Joint legal custody means both parents share the right and the responsibility to make decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children. The law presumes that joint legal custody is in the best interest of minor children when the parents can make it work and submit a workable "parenting plan." However, joint legal custody is not always easy. It requires both parents to cooperate and lay aside all differences.

Visitation Rights in a Divorce

In recent years, lawmakers have realized visitation rights do not translate easily into laws. The law does state that any person having an interest in the children's welfare is entitled to reasonable visitation. What is reasonable in one circumstance is not necessarily reasonable in another. That's why parents are left to define reasonable visitation standards for grandparents and others.


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