Rights of Divorced Parents Sharing Custody of a Child

By Rob Jennings J.D.

While child custody and visitation is dictated by state law, every state awards custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child standard. In other words, parents must show that the visitation and custody that they are requesting represents what is best for the child. States do not automatically award custody to the mother or the father, and sometimes parents share custody of their children.

What is Custody?

Child custody is made up of legal custody and physical custody. Legal child custody is the legal right to make the important decisions for your child. These decisions are for medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and any of the other day-to-day decisions. Physical custody refers to the child's physical living arrangement. Custody can be joint or sole physical custody and legal custody.

Types of Custody

Joint legal custody of a child is when both parents have the right to make the decisions about their child. Even though the parents share this responsibility, they do not have to agree on every decision and each one can make day-to-day decisions for the child when the child is with them. A judge can also award one parent sole legal custody. This is when only one parent has the right a to make the important decisions about the child. Joint physical custody is when the children live with both parents. Sole or primary custody is when the children live with one parent most of the time. The child may have visitation with the other parent. Even with joint physical custody, the children usually spend a little more time with one parent. When courts award a parent visitation, they usually set up a schedule for visitation. However, if the children’s safety requires it, the court may require visitation to be supervised by another adult. If one parent has primary physical custody, he or she should still refrain from interfering with the other parent's visitation. One parent cannot deny visitation because the other parent has not kept up with child support payments.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Child Custody Factors

While each state has different child custody laws, all states consider a child's best interests when determining custody. To decide what is best for a child, the court usually considers the ability of the parents to care for the child, the emotional ties between the parents and the child, the child's ties to their school and home, the age of the child, and the health of the child.


Relocation is when the parent with whom the child resides most of the time wants to move somewhere that would substantially change the geographic ties between the child and the other parent. What would be considered a substantial change depends on state law and is often a reason for litigation. You do not necessarily have to move out of state for there to be a substantial change in geographic ties. As with custody, a court will decided whether moving is in the best interests of the child when determining whether it will allow the parent to move with the child. It may consider the reasons why the parent wishes to relocate with the child and why the other parent objects, each parent's relationship with the child, the educational opportunities for the child, how the move may impact the child, and any other relevant factor.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
California's Laws on Custody and Visitation for the Noncustodial Parent


Related articles

Kentucky State Child Custody Guidelines

For divorcing couples with minor children, determining custody can be a major source of conflict. In Kentucky, state law places the interests of the child above the wishes of the parents, and a court must consider several factors in crafting all custody orders. Once in place, a parent can petition the court for a modification of the custody order in limited circumstances.

Can Child Support Be Stopped if a Child Is Not Living With a Parent?

Generally, a parent who does not have primary custody of his child will pay support to the parent who does. However, sometimes children spend more overnights with their noncustodial parent. This requires modification of the existing custody order to reflect the actual custody arrangement. After that happens, the court can recalculate child support, or even eliminate it, if there is only one child and that child went to live with the parent who formerly did not have custody.

Child Custody Laws in the State of Tennessee for a 12-Year-Old

Establishing a custody arrangement is a required step for all divorces involving minor children. Under Tennessee law, a court must determine custody according to the best interests of the child. Understanding how the child's age can influence custody decisions and his best interests can help remove some of the confusion for both you and your 12-year-old.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

What Is the Meaning of Primary Custodian?

When the word primary is used in connection with custody, it usually relates to physical custody – which parent your ...

Shared vs. Residential Custody

In most states, two kinds of custody apply to all separating families: legal and physical. Legal custody refers only to ...

Custody and Visitation of Toddlers

When spouses divorce, they must decide how to split custody of their children, including setting a visitation schedule ...

California Laws on Teenage Custody Wishes

Custody determinations often have a significant impact on the life of a child. For that reason, California law provides ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED