In North Carolina, a judge will grant custody based on what is in your child’s best interest, which is what most parents want, as well. When determining custody, you may not know that there are more types of custody than just “sole” and “joint.” It is vital that you and your spouse understand the different types of custody prior to taking the steps to create a custody agreement.

Before jumping into what sole and joint custody mean, it will be beneficial to understand the difference between physical custody as well as legal custody.

  • Physical custody: If a judge grants you physical custody, it means that you will be the parent that lives with the child.
  • Legal Custody: The parent who has legal custody is the one who makes all the important decisions in the child’s life. This is mostly important regarding medical decisions, but it can also include deciding where the child goes to school and church.

Joint and sole custody

Both physical and legal custody can be joint or sole. Joint physical custody means that the child shares time with both you and your ex. This is less common, as it is more common for a judge to grant sole physical custody to one of you, and the other to receive visitation rights. For example, if you received sole physical custody and your ex had visitation rights, your child may spend the week with you and the weekends with your ex. This varies depending on the judge’s orders.

Sole legal custody means that only one of you will have the ability to make important decisions in your child’s life. It is common for the individual to have sole legal custody to also have sole physical custody. If a judge grants joint legal custody, it is likely because you and your spouse have the ability to communicate openly and effectively.