Physical Custody: Joint vs. Sole

Physical Custody: Joint vs. Sole


Physical Rights vs. Legal Rights


New Jersey recognizes two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody gives you the right to make important decisions regarding your child, while physical custody gives you the right to live with your child and oversee their care on a day to day basis. Physical custody can be either granted to both parents (joint physical custody) or just one parent (sole physical custody).

Because physical custody gives a parent the right to live with his or her child, it is often a tough decision to make. Where a child lives will have an immense impact on his or her life, and this impact could easily be detrimental to the child. A child might not thrive being frequently shuttled between houses, but staying close with both parents is often beneficial. Not surprisingly, physical custody is often contested. The court has to consider many factors when deciding on physical custody, including:

Where can the child live safely? Allegations of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment can significant hurt a parent’s chance of getting physical custody.

What is appropriate for the child’s age and maturity? Very young children often end up in the physical custody of the mother, especially if the mother has acted as the child’s primary caregiver up until that point.

Which parent can best meet the child’s needs? If a child has special needs, he or she should live with the parent whom can best meet them. This will involve several factors such as the parents’ employment responsibilities, the nature of the child’s needs, and the home environment each parent can provide for the child. The number and age of any other children in each household, the presence of pets, or even the presence of another adult in each household could affect a parent’s ability to meet a child’s needs.

Whether the parents can cooperate and adhere to a joint custody arrangement. If it is evident the parents cannot work together to make a joint custody arrangement successful, it may do more harm than good if the child is subjected to that conflict. Joint physical custody takes significant cooperation between the parents, and many parents are unable or unwilling to do this.

The child’s preference for physical custody might be considered if he or she demonstrates an appropriate maturity.

These are just a few factors that can influence a physical custody decision made by the court. These factors should also be considered by parents who want to negotiate an agreement on their own. Sometimes sole physical custody is best for the child, but the non-custodial parent will typically be given appropriate parenting time in these cases. Speak with an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney if you have questions about physical custody. An attorney can explain your options and help you determine what arrangement would be in the best interests of your child. An attorney can also help you obtain physical custody or parenting time if you are the non-custodial parent.


Do you have questions about physical custody? Williams Law Group, LLC can advise you of your rights and protect your best interests every step of the way. Located in Union, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.


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