One of the most emotional and difficult parts of going through divorce is determining the custody of the children. It’s hard for parents to imagine not being able to spend every single day with their children. But what is even more difficult is watching your children suffer emotionally as they see their parents fight over who gets custody of them. A compassionate attorney will listen to your wishes as it relates to the custody of your children and help you set realistic expectations as you work through child custody issues.

What is the definition of child custody in South Carolina?

When we think of child custody, we usually think that means where a child will live. However, there are two kinds of child custody – legal custody and physical custody. Let’s look first at legal custody.

Sole and Joint Legal Custody

There are two types of legal custody – sole legal custody and joint legal custody. Sole legal custody means one parent gets to make the major decisions in the child’s life. This kind of custody is usually the choice of the judge and is awarded in cases where the parents simply cannot work together at all, or when one parent cannot or will not make decisions that are in the child’s best interest.

When parents have joint legal custody, they work together in making the big decisions about their child’s life. This type of custody works well with parents who are able to communicate with each other and who can set aside their differences to do what’s best for their child.

Sole and Joint Physical Custody

In addition to determining the legal custody of your child, physical custody must also be determined. Physical custody refers to the time a child spends with each parent. Like legal custody, physical custody can be sole or joint. Keep in mind that although there was once a preference of the courts to award physical custody of a young child to the mother, this is no longer the case. When it comes to deciding issues of custody (as well as visitation and support), South Carolina child custody laws will uphold the best interest of the child above all else. In addition, a judge will consider the ability and willingness of each parent to encourage a meaningful, continuing relationship with the child and the other parent. This helps a judge determine whether sole or joint physical custody would be in the best interest of your child.

Sole physical custody typically means one parent is awarded sole custody with the other parent having visitation rights. In cases like these, a court will determine what type of visitation is most appropriate for the child.

When the parents have joint physical custody, time with each parent is divided in a way that is best for the child. This doesn’t necessarily mean that time with each parent is split 50/50. Joint physical custody most often means that the time is divided in a way that suits the child’s needs.

Christine M. Howard is a family law attorney that believes “custody with compassion” is possible. Her experience in family law will help you work out a child custody plan that has your child’s well-being at heart.