What is the difference between primary custody and sole custody?
In a case where one parent sees the other parent as unfit, unsafe, or just generally wants to limit their involvement in their child’s life, that parent tends to aim for primary or sole child custody. The difference between the two is the degree of responsibility for the child that is granted; either most of the responsibility, i.e. primary custody, or 100% of the responsibility, i.e. sole custody.
In terms of physical custody, primary custody is not uncommon when the parents don’t live relatively close or when it’s not financially feasibly to maintain two stable home environments for the child/children. As far as legal custody is concerned, there’s typically not a primary legal custody option. Legal custody is either granted jointly, where parents must agree upon decisions for the best interest of the child, or solely, where one parent relinquishes all rights to that decision-making.
Courts generally limit the frequency of granting sole custody in an attempt to keep both parents as involved in their child’s life as possible. In some situations one parent may lack the ability to care for their child physically. This could be due to drug or alcohol dependencies, charges of child abuse, or other unfortunate situations deeming them unfit. In these cases, a court will not hesitate to grant sole physical custody. However, even in these situations, the court will rarely resort to sole legal custody, and instead grant joint legal custody in order to keep the noncustodial parent involved in the child’s upbringing.
Regardless of the type of custody, or the tension or conflict between parents, courts will often push for parents to have the ability to see their children as much as they can safely advise. This typically means that visitation, whether supervised or not, is almost always granted to the noncustodial parent to some degree.
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