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Understanding the different types of child custody

Child custody decisions in Kentucky are made by judges when parents cannot agree. The goal of every legal decision on child custody is to do what is in the best interest of the child, and custody does not always mean either sole custody or joint custody. There are several different types of arrangements that can be made, all of them based on the legal definition of the two types of custody: physical and legal.

Physical custody refers to which parent the child actually lives with while the parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions about the child's health and welfare whether the child lives with them or not. In cases where sole custody is granted to one parent, that parent has full legal and physical custody, and the other parent has only visitation rights.

Joint custody is when both parents are granted part-time physical and legal custody. The split is not necessarily even, however. In some cases, one parent may have physical custody more often than the other parent. Living arrangements can be made to follow any pattern that works for everyone.

In some cases, a judge might decide that neither parent is a suitable and award custody to someone else, such as a grandparent or other relative. This is called third-party custody. Another less common type of custody is to split two or more children between parents.

In Kentucky, equally shared parenting is preferred in child custody cases. As children grow, child custody agreements may change or evolve. Child custody orders can be modified at any time by request of either parent. Modification might be needed because of changing schedules for a parent or the child, because one parent is planning to change residence or for other reasons.

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