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Sole Versus Joint Custody: Explaining the Terms

If you are going through custody proceedings, you have likely heard the terms “sole” and “joint” custody. The general idea is that a sole custody arrangement gives one parent custody, while a joint custody arrangement involves sharing custody.

However, one also must take into account whether the relationship is referring to legal or physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make decisions about a child’s upbringing, while physical custody refers to the arrangement of a child’s living situation.

Potential custody arrangements

Unless judges see that the parents are unwilling to get along or would be incapable of making mutual decisions about a child’s upbringing, they are most likely going to award joint legal custody. Joint legal custody is the presumption in Minnesota.

However, even in cases in which there is conflict and a judge rules there will be sole legal custody, that does not mean the other spouse will not be able to be a significant part of the child’s life. Parenting time and custody arrangements still give parents without legal custody some time to have the children come and stay with them.

When it comes to physical custody, parents may share joint physical custody in a variety of arrangements, which do not necessarily have to be equal. In “joint” physical custody, a child just has to spend a significant amount of time with each parent. A parent who has sole physical custody must still abide by the reasonable visitation the court allots to the other parent.

To learn more about child custody and establishing an arrangement that’s in the best interests of your kids, meet with a skilled Minnesota family law attorney at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart.

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  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.

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