Child custody is usually the most heated aspect of divorce — that’s why it’s called a custody battle. To further complicate things, there are many nuances to custody law, requiring an experienced attorney to smoothly navigate the process.

If you’re involved in a custody dispute, it’s crucial to understand the terminology. To start, the most important thing to know is the difference between joint and sole custody.

Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

In the most basic sense, joint custody refers to the custody of a child that is shared between two parties. Sole custody, on the other hand, is exclusive custody for one party. In both cases, access or visitation is included.

Legal Custody

Sole custody gives authority to one party to make minor and major decisions in a child’s life as they relate to:

  • Health
  • Education,
  • Enrollment in extracurricular activities
  • General welfare

If one party has sole custody, they make these decisions for the child. They are, however, subject to an affirmative obligation to consult with the other parent, seek input, and keep the other party informed of any major decision related to health, education, and general welfare. However, if parties share joint custody, they will co-parent to make these decisions together.

With sole custody, the child is not required to live with their custodian 100% of the time. There is an access and visitation schedule to define the times the child is away from the sole custodian.

There is also an access schedule for parties sharing joint custody. The key difference is in shared decision-making. This requires parties to co-parent.

Which Is Better, Sole or Joint Custody?

Whether sole or joint custody is the right option depends on the circumstances. Joint custody can succeed if all parties work together. However, if co-parents do not get along and cannot put their differences aside, it is unlikely that they will agree on major decisions, meaning joint custody would likely fail.

How Do Judges Decide Whether to Grant Sole or Joint Custody?

When deciding on custody, judges will primarily prioritize the child’s best interests. To determine their best interests, a judge considers various factors, such as:

  • The quality of the home environment and parental guidance
  • The financial status and ability of each parent to provide for the child
  • The ability to provide for the child’s emotional and intellectual development
  • The demonstrated parenting ability and fitness of the parties
  • The emotional bond between the child and each party
  • The willingness and ability of each party to put a child’s needs ahead of their own
  • The willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other party
  • The individual needs and preferences of the child

A New York Child Custody Lawyer Can Help

If you’re dealing with custody issues of any kind, including disputes regarding visitation or access, don’t hesitate to contact a New York child custody lawyer for clarification and to help your family thrive.