What Is the Difference Between Joint & Sole Custody?

When it comes to child custody and divorce, legal terms can get confusing fast. Terms like “joint custody” and “sole custody” can be difficult to understand, especially in the middle of a highly charged emotional situation. Let us help you understand the differences and hopefully ease your mind.

Joint Custody vs Sole Custody: What’s the Difference?

In Minnesota, there are four main phrases that describe child custody:

  • Legal custody
  • Physical custody
  • Sole custody
  • Joint custody

To understand sole and joint, you must first understand the difference between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions for a child while physical custody refers to having the right to determine where a child should live and daily control.

Custody Options For Parents

It’s possible for parents to share (joint) both legal and physical custody or have sole legal and physical custody. This is where the key difference resides.

  • Sole legal custody refers to one parent being responsible for making decisions for the child.
  • Joint legal custody refers to both parents making decisions for the child.
  • Sole physical custody refers to one parent being responsible for determining where the child lives and having daily control.
  • Joint physical custody refers to both parents being responsible for determining where a child should live and having daily control.

It’s important to note that sole custody doesn’t mean one parent won’t be able to see the child. Visitation, now called parenting time, will be allowed in most cases for the non-custodial parent unless visitation isn’t in the best interest of the child. If you and the other parent cannot determine a parenting plan together, the court will decide what visitation will look like for you moving forward.

How Is Custody Determined in Minnesota?

Child custody is determined based on what is in the child’s best interest. There isn’t a set parameter for cases across the board. The court will decide on custody based on several factors, including:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The mental and physical health of the parents and others involved
  • Each parent’s ability to show love and affection for the child
  • The effects of any domestic abuse
  • Each parent’s ability to cooperate in raising the child if seeking joint custody

Struggling With Child Custody? We Can Help You.

Are you struggling with child custody? Have questions about your own family custody plan? Our Elk River family law attorneys can help. To learn more about child custody or to speak with an attorney, give us a call at 763-241-0477 or send us a message.