What Is Secondary Custody?

By Mary Jane Freeman

Courts often decide custody matters during a divorce. This includes both decision-making authority and where the child lives. Although terminology can differ among states, the parent who spends the least amount of time with the child is often described as having secondary custody.

Secondary Custody Means Less Time

Custody is split into two types -- physical and legal. When a parent has legal custody, he has the power to make important decisions about his child's welfare, such as medical care and religion. Courts can award legal custody to one or both parents. In contrast, a parent who has physical custody provides a home for the child. Like legal custody, physical custody can be sole or joint; courts often award physical custody to one parent, so that the child has a consistent living environment. When this happens, the other parent is usually granted visitation rights and pays child support. The parent who has physical custody -- or who spends more time with the child -- is sometimes described as having primary custody and the parent with visitation -- or who spends less time with the child -- is sometimes described as having secondary custody.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Is the Difference Between Custodial Parent & Primary Physical Custody?
 

References

Related articles

Shared vs. Residential Custody

In most states, two kinds of custody apply to all separating families: legal and physical. Legal custody refers only to major decision-making, and physical custody refers to the parent with whom a child lives. A parent with sole physical custody is sometimes referred to as the residential or custodial parent; this is the parent with residential custody. When a child lives a relatively equal amount of time in each parent’s home, this is referred to as shared custody, also often called joint custody.

Can I Have Joint Custody When the Mother Has Primary Physical Custody?

Effectively dividing parenting responsibilities between two parents who live apart is no easy task. From the parent's perspective, understanding how the court differentiates between legal custody and physical custody can be helpful, particularly in cases where a judge may award sole physical custody to one parent, but shared legal custody to both parents. It is important to note that while each state makes a distinction between physical and legal custody, the applicable laws vary from state to state.

How to Negotiate Child Custody and Divorce

Child custody is one of the biggest issues to negotiate when going through a divorce. There are many ways to handle placement of children and this is often one of the more emotional parts of a divorce proceeding. However, when divorcing couples can come to an agreement that works for the family, the children benefit in the end.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Divorce & Joint Custody Laws in Kentucky

Joint custody is not defined in Kentucky law. However, as in all states, Kentucky's Revised Statutes provide the ...

About Dual Custody

Child custody evaluator Jonathan Gould argues in his book, "The Art and Science of Child Custody Evaluations," that ...

Father's Child Custody Rights When the Child's Mother Is Mentally Ill

Mental illness can affect not only a person's life, but those around them as well. For that reason, courts take mental ...

What Gives You the Upper Hand for Custody?

Although each stage of a divorce can involve conflict, custody disputes have the potential to become the most ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED