Child Custody 101

Dear Mr. Dad: After three children and 16 years of marriage, my wife and I are splitting up. We’re getting along pretty well right now and are trying to figure out how to divide custody in a fair way. What are our options?

A: Start by taking a look at last week’s column on co-parenting plans. Among the most common questions I get from divorcing people are, “Where are the kids going to live?” and “With whom, and how much time will they be able to spend with each parent?” While the answers to both questions are critical, an equitable custody schedule is only one component of your overall post-marriage life.

As far as the law is concerned, there are only two types of custody: legal and physical. Everything else is details. The parent with legal custody is the one has the right—and responsibility—to make decisions about anything that affects the children’s health, education, and welfare. The parent with physical custody is the one with whom the child lives. Unfortunately, too many people (especially fathers) don’t understand the difference between legal and physical custody and, as a result, they end up with an unfair settlement. Within those two broad categories, there are a variety of different alternatives. Here are the most common:

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Photo by Gerome Viavant on Unsplash

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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