Child Custody Joint vs. Full

By Bailey Shoemaker Richards
Child custody law, part, divorce proceedings
Child image by Serenitie from

Deciding whether a parent will receive full or joint custody of a child after a divorce is often a challenging issue. Several aspects of both joint and full custody play a role in how care of a child is to be assigned.

Full Physical Custody

Full physical custody gives one parent the right to have the child live with her at all times throughout the year. Although the parents may agree upon visiting arrangements with the approval of the court, only one parent will receive full physical custody.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody enables the the child to spend roughly equal time at each of his parents' homes throughout the year. Joint physical custody is easiest to maintain when both parents live in the same area, sparing the child from having to move between schools and cities.

Joint Legal Custody

Most courts award joint legal custody unless one parent is unfit to be involved in the life of her child due to drug or alcohol abuse. Joint legal custody allows both parents to have input in the education and upbringing of their child.


Joint custody permits parents to retain an equal amount of influence over the life of their child. However, it also means more uprooting of the child's life, especially if one parent moves away. Joint legal or physical custody of a child ensures that both parents will offer financial assistance for the care and education of the child.


Among the factors the court weighs when ruling on either joint or full legal custody of a child are who the primary caregiver is, whether there has been any abuse of the child by either parent and the input of both parents during the divorce proceedings.