Custody can be very confusing for anyone going through the process of a custody battle.  There are many different forms of custody:  Physical custody, partial physical custody, joint physical custody, legal custody, etc.

A person needs to understand the different types of custody so they can understand the process and make informed decisions.  Custody also affects the amount of child support a person has to pay or is able to receive.

Legal custody means that one or both parents have a say in the health, education, and major decisions of the child(ren)’s lives.  They are entitled to go to doctor appointments, see school records.  In essence, they are parents.

  • SOLE LEGAL CUSTODY – this means that one parent has complete say over the health, education, and welfare of the child(ren).  Sole legal custody is rare in the courts and is usually only awarded if one parent has abandoned the child, or is otherwise abusive or neglectful.
  • JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY -  this means that both parents have a say in their child(ren)’s lives.  Courts favor joint legal custody so that both parents remain involved as parents in the major decisions affecting their children.

Physical custody means what is says.  The actual physical custody of the child(ren).  The standard for physical custody  (as well as legal) is the best interest of the child.

  • Joint Physical Custody – Each parent has the child(ren) 50% of the time or as close to 50% as possible.    
  • Primary Physical Custody – One parent has more time with the child(ren) than the other parent.  The parent with more “physical” time with the children makes the day-to-day decisions.  
  • Partial Physical Custody  - The other parent has certain days during the week and/or weekend with the child(ren).
    The type of custody that is in the best interest of the child depends on each situation.  A thorough analysis of each situation is needed to determine what would be in the best interest of the child.


Child custody is one of the most unpleasant events for everyone involved, including Mom, Dad, children and even grand parents. Emotions run very high in a custody case and often times, logic and what is in the best interest of the child are secondary to those emotions.

Child custody is even harder when Mom and Dad were only dating, had an unplanned encounter or even one night stand and now they have a child and are forced to deal with each other forever, although Mom and Dad are no longer dating.

Having a child with someone you were only dating or worse is difficult emotionally and financially. It is difficult financially because you are now responsible for child support and other costs of raising a child, something you were not counting on when you were hooking up or merely dating. It is difficult emotionally because you are now forced to deal with someone for the rest of your life whom you really don’t know and whom you probably don’t really like and probably never wanted a relationship.

The short answer to a child custody problem with someone you are dating is don’t have a child with them. However, if you are reading this article, that advice probably came too late. The longer answer is that you are now a parent and your focus needs to be your child and not the other parent. However, you need to deal with that parent civilly (if at all possible) for the sake of your child.

However, there should also be a custody order in place to state who has custody of the child, the terms of the custody, both physical and legal custody. Custody is always flexible and ever changing, especially as the child grows up and has ever changing schedules and interests. Again, the focus is the best interest of the child, not using the child to use as revenge against the other parent.

Although it sounds horrible and mean, parents will use the children or put the children in the middle, without any intent to do so, because they are upset with the other parent for any number of reasons.


If you pass away, the other parent is the guardian of your child, unless otherwise provided otherwise in your Will and with very good reason that the other parent should not have custody.

Financially, to protect your child(ren)’s interest and financial future in cases where the parents were never married, you can set up a trust and name a trustee who is responsible with finances. Many times, the child’s guardian is the trustee, but a separate trustee can be names. The guardian has no control over the child’s inheritance and a trust would also protect the child from any creditors, if that becomes an issue.

Financial planning is even more important for a child when the child is born to parents who are not married.

Please feel free to contact Robin J. Gray at (484) 769-5855 or online here to schedule an appointment with any questions concerning custody or other divorce or custody matter.




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