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Understanding the differences between sole and joint custody

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Child Custody |

When families undergo the challenging process of separation or divorce, understanding child custody laws becomes paramount. In Delaware, two main types of custody arrangements exist: sole custody and joint custody.

Each type of custody has distinct implications for parents and children.

Sole Custody

Sole custody in Delaware grants one parent primary responsibility for making significant decisions regarding the child’s welfare. This includes educational, medical and religious choices. The custodial parent also has physical custody, meaning the child primarily lives with them.

The non-custodial parent, who cannot make decisions for the child, usually has visitation rights unless the court deems them unfit. Courts grant sole custody when it serves the child’s best interests. Parental neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence or serious mental health issues can lead to the court awarding sole custody. In this arrangement, one parent gains full decision-making power to reduce potential conflicts.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is the preferred arrangement and divides responsibilities between both parents. Joint legal custody allows both parents to make significant decisions about their child’s upbringing. Joint physical custody enables the child to spend significant time living with each parent, usually following a set schedule.

Effective communication and cooperation between parents are necessary for joint custody. This arrangement helps the child maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents, providing emotional stability and reducing the effects of the separation. Courts will deny joint custody if one parent exhibits abusive behavior or has serious difficulty cooperating with the other.

Sole and joint custody each offer unique benefits and challenges. Delaware courts consider the family’s situation to find the best arrangement for the child’s well-being. Understanding these differences helps parents advocate for a custody plan that prioritizes the child’s needs and supports a positive, healthy environment.