To have physical custody of a child means to have control over where that child lives, and that child’s daily routine. The judge can either award sole physical custody to one parent, or joint physical custody to both parents.
Sole Physical Custody
If the judge awards one parent sole physical custody of a child, the child will live primarily with that parent, and that parent will decide for the most part what happens day-to-day in the child’s life. The other parent would be called the “non-custodial” parent, and he/she would have scheduled parenting time. A common parenting time schedule for the non-custodial parent is that he/she would have the child one night during the week, every other weekend, alternating holidays and some extended periods for vacations.
Joint Physical Custody
If the judge awards joint physical custody to both parents, then where the child lives and what the child does on a day-to-day basis will be structured between the two parents’ homes. The amount of time the child spends in each parent’s home when joint physical custody is awarded does not have to be equal, though oftentimes it is close. Schedules in joint physical custody situations can involve the child rotating from home to home on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The schedule could be just about anything that works for the child and the parents, with the most important deciding factor being what schedule is in the best interests of the child.