Understanding the Different Types of Child Custody Arrangements


Child custody is a hard and sensitive thing that many parents face. When parents separate or divorce, it’s important that a fair agreement is made that respects the child’s rights and allows them to be with both parents. There are many types of child custody that parents should know about so they can make the best decision. Daniels Law PA in Fort Myers, Florida covers the legal side of child custody and what to expect from court-ordered mediation and common agreements.

Understanding Child Custody Laws

Parents should know their state laws on joint physical, joint legal, sole physical, and sole legal custody provisions. This is the first step to a good outcome for the family. It is also difficult to decide who has full legal control and where the children will live.

Court-Ordered Mediation and Negotiation Process

Both parents must attend court-ordered mediation or negotiation with their lawyer. Court fees must be paid to make an official arrangement. Parents should take steps to make sure neither parent or the children are left in an awkward situation after the divorce/separation. A parenting plan should be made and valid evidence should be provided. Visitation exchanges should be handled and alternative dispute resolution methods can be used. Everything should be organized by a court order.

Common Types Of Child Custody Agreements

  • Joint legal custody is when both parents share responsible custodianship over minor children.
  • Split custody is when one parent has some minor children living with them while the other parent has some living with them.
  • Shared visitation rights is when Family Court grants visitation rights and a schedule. This includes alternate residential week plans or bi-weekly visitation exchanges.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is a key part of family law. It gives parents the power to make big decisions for their child. It’s vital to know the different types of custody and which is best for the child’s future.

Daniels Law PA in Fort Myers, Florida has created this blog post to provide an in-depth look at the various types of legal custody:

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody grants both parents the right to make decisions about a child’s medical and educational environment. This court order allows them to “share decision-making” over issues related to their child’s welfare, like healthcare, education, and religion. They must both share information on what is happening in the child’s life and devise a plan for how their time with the child will be spent. Judges often choose joint legal custody to keep harmony between the parents, support cooperation, protect the child, and provide clear direction in case of disputes.

Joint legal custody has positives and negatives. It can cause communication problems. Also, it does not mean shared physical residence or equal rights between parents. The judge bases physical time-sharing decisions on the family’s individual needs. Nevertheless, jointly granted parental authority creates a feeling of solidarity between the two parents that research shows can improve parenting effectiveness.

Sole Legal Custody

Sole legal custody is a court order giving only one parent the authority to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. These decisions can include school, activities, religion, medical care and relocating to another state.

If both parents agree in their parenting plan and are able to cooperate, sole legal custody is the ideal choice. However, disagreements on parenting decisions may still come up even with this arrangement.

Florida Statute 61.14 states that one parent (the custodial parent) has exclusive decision-making authority. The non-custodial parent will have visitation but no say in parenting matters. This arrangement offers stability, and both parents must agree on basic parenting values before submitting their plan to the court.

Sole legal arrangements allow for little dispute and ensure children have consistent rules and guidance. It’s ultimately up to the courts to decide which arrangement is best for the family, based on evidence from both sides.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is one of three types of custody. It’s essential to know the distinctions between physical custody and other custody types. To make sure a child’s best interest is secured, let’s look into physical custody’s details. This will help you to understand your legal custody rights.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody, which is sometimes known as shared or alternating physical custody, is when the child lives with both parents. It can be 50/50 custody or every other weekend visitation. In other words, each parent has scheduled time with their child.

Parents can decide how to share care for the child, based on what is best for their family. This kind of arrangement gives parents enough time to be involved in their child’s life. Both parents are responsible for raising the child, not just one.

This arrangement can work for some families, but not all. It requires good communication and cooperation between the divorced couple. If you are considering joint physical custody, you should get help from an experienced divorce lawyer who knows Florida family law. They can help you come up with a plan that works for you.

Sole Physical Custody

Sole physical custody is an arrangement where one parent is in charge of the where the child lives. That parent is responsible for deciding on education, health, and discipline. Courts may give sole physical custody if it is what’s best for the child and if the other parent is unable to care for them due to a special need or addiction.

When it comes to major decisions related to the child’s welfare, there are two types of custody:

  • Full Physical Custody: This gives full parenting rights to one parent and no limitations on visiting rights or decision-making.
  • Partial Physical Custody: Both parents share responsibility for decisions like health care, but one parent is mainly in charge of supervision and tracking the whereabouts of the kid.

Split Custody

Split custody is when one parent has sole physical custody of one or more children and the other parent has sole physical custody of the remaining kids. It might benefit a family if siblings are spread across various households.

Both parents keep legal rights and responsibilities. They must communicate and cooperate on decisions about their children’s education, healthcare, and spiritual upbringing.

Generally, courts don’t prefer split custody, as kids benefit most when they are able to stay with both parents and siblings in the same home. However, if it is in the best interest of the child and both parents agree, then it might be allowed, as it could provide stability.

Shared Custody

Shared custody is when parents share both legal and physical care of their child. This is often referred to as ‘nesting‘, where the kid or kids stay mostly at one home, but have time with both parents. Both adults have a say in major decisions such as medical and education, as well as in day-to-day life.

The custody plan should be based on the child’s needs, like weekday schedules, bilingual requirements, and special activities. Overnight stays usually occur in each parent’s home on an alternating basis, but weekend stays can also be done if wanted.

In Florida, courts often use shared custody to limit family disruption. If households are in different cities/states, distance travel arrangements should be made. Shared custody can help children keep going during a difficult transition period, but it might not be possible due to issues like work or lifestyle.

All family members must get legal advice before agreeing to any type of shared agreement, so all sides have realistic expectations, both financially and emotionally.


Visitation is a major component of all child custody agreements. It means the times when a parent who does not have full custody can be with their kid. It is a fragile topic that must be handled with caution.

In this blog post, we will look at the various kinds of visitation arrangements and their legal facets:

Supervised Visitation

Supervised visitation is a kind of child custody set-up that allows a parent to be with their child with the help of a third party. This might be needed when there are worries about the safety of the child. Reasons for this could be neglect, abuse, substance abuse, mental health problems, or any other issues that need an adult’s presence.

The third party in the arrangement can vary. It might be someone from the court system, like a magistrate or a judge-appointed monitor. It could also be somebody from a firm that offers supervised visitation or mediation services. The law in many cases states what should be done for these visits.

The amount of visits, and for how long, is special to every family. It depends on both parents, and the court that handles the case. Possibilities are:

  • visiting weekly with the judge-appointed monitor all the time;
  • going on day trips on the weekends with an approved family member supervising; or
  • talking about relaxed rules while still needing another adult to keep watch and write reports after each visit.

It’s critical to think of both parents’ best interests and those of the kids. A resolution that fits everyone’s timetable and comfort level must be found, while preserving everyone’s rights under Florida law.

Unsupervised Visitation

Unsupervised visitation gives a non-custodial parent more time with the child. During this time, the parent is in charge of the kid. Unsupervised visitation may be used if:

  • The parent is able to take care of the child safely and lovingly, or
  • It could help a non-custodial parent and their kid’s relationship, while being watched by the court.

In lots of cases, evidence must show that it is best for the child to have unsupervised visits with their non-custodial parent. Generally, unsupervised visitation should only happen after many supervised visits that went well without any problems. For most cases, unsupervised visitation starts off with shorter periods or special times like holidays or birthdays. As trust increases over time, courts may let them have more extended visits if it is helpful for both parties.

Parents should never leave the child alone during supervision and follow the age guidelines set by their local court system.

Reasonable Visitation

Reasonable visitation is a popular form of child custody and visitation. Parents create a schedule to present to the court, allowing both to have meaningful time with the kids while maintaining their other activities.

There are various kinds of visitation arrangements:

  • Specific Time Visitation Orders
  • Open/Flexible Visitation Agreements
  • Alternating Weekend Visitation
  • Rotating Holiday Schedules
  • Weekly Visitation/Extended Summer Visits

Courts must consider what is best for the children when granting reasonable visitation rights. Agreement between parents makes it better for kids, as they have order, stability, and predictability which helps develop a sense of belonging.


Making a parenting plan can be tough. It’s critical to consider the different types of custody and all factors that go in to deciding what’s best for your family. This blog has given you insight into the types of child custody arrangements, so you can make an educated choice that looks out for your children.

No matter the arrangement you and your co-parent agree on, communication is key. You should also talk to a Fort Myers family lawyer experienced in child custody law. They can help you understand the issues that come with each type of setup and make sure your arrangement is legally enforceable.

At Daniels Law PA, we know the emotional stress of a child custody case. We do our best to reduce your stress and provide sound legal advice every step of the way. Contact us at (239) 766-6510 to set up an appointment with one of our family law attorneys and get started on making a parenting plan that meets all legal requirements and fits your situation.

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