While navigating a recent divorce or separation, understanding the types of child custody arrangements available may seem overwhelming. You want the best for your child, but also feel unsure what the distinctions are for each one. 

However, learning more about each choice can lead to a better decision that helps keep your child safe and happy. 

Physical and legal custody 

One of the most important decisions in a divorce is with whom your child will be spending most of her or her time, such as you or your ex-spouse. This in-person arrangement is physical custody. 

Legal custody has a separate definition. When you are responsible for this type of care, you play an important role in making life decisions, such as deciding what to do for formal schooling, religious education, and even medical decisions. Many divorced parents must learn to communicate clearly if they share this responsibility. 

Sole and joint custody 

In a relationship where one parent is legally unfit to be a caregiver, sole custody is often seen as an accepted solution. Any variety of issues, such as alcoholism or financial issues, may lead to this decision for the health of the child. 

Joint custody refers to both spouses taking care of a child, usually in separate residences. This type of custody can be only physical, or both physical and legal. Although somewhat unusual, a child may stay in the house while you or your ex-spouse live in it as needed in order to take care of him or her. Most parents end up taking turns with primary care of the child and setting up a schedule for visits to the other parent.