Full Custody vs. Joint Custody: Understanding the Differences and Making the Best Decision for Your Child

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Full custody vs joint custody divorce attorneys with a computer in the background

Updated December 13, 2023

Child custody decisions can profoundly impact both the parents and, most importantly, the child involved. Specifically, it’s very common to wonder about the difference between full custody vs. joint custody. But what exactly do these terms mean, and how do you determine which option is best for your child? In this article, we will delve into the differences between full custody and joint custody, providing you with the information you need to make an informed decision. We will explore the legal aspects and offer guidance on how to prioritize your child’s well-being throughout the process.

Whether you are going through a divorce or considering a custody arrangement with an ex-partner, understanding the nuances of full custody and joint custody is crucial to ensure the best outcome for your child’s future. So, let’s dig in and unravel the complexities of full custody vs. joint custody to help you understand your options to make the right decision for your family.

What Is Full Custody?

Full custody, also known as sole custody, is a custody arrangement in which one parent has primary physical and legal custody of the child. This means that the child primarily resides with one parent, and that parent has the authority to make major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as education, healthcare, and religion. In a full custody arrangement, the non-custodial parent may still have visitation rights, but don’t have the same level of decision-making power as the primary custodial parent.

Read: What Is Child Support?

Read: Is There Child Support When We Have Shared Custody?

Full Custody vs. Sole Custody

In most cases, people use sole custody and full custody essentially interchangeably — there is no real difference. When people say “sole custody” or “full custody,” they are referring to cases where one parent has primary physical and legal custody.

As we mentioned above, just because one parent has primary custody doesn’t mean that the other parent won’t have visitation with their child. Some people use the term “sole custody” to refer to situations where the non-custodial parent doesn’t have visitation, and “full custody” for situations where the non-custodial parent does have visitation.

Read: Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody

Read: What Does Sole Custody Mean?

Full Custody vs. Termination of Parental Rights

Even when one parent has full or sole custody, the other parent still has rights to and obligations for their children. In addition to potential visitation, this can include things like child support. On the other hand, when the court terminates a parent’s rights, it’s ending the legal relationship between parent and child. The only exception to the legal severing of the parent/child relationship is that the child’s rights of inheritance continue unless and until the child is adopted.

Read: Termination of Parental Rights

When Does the Court Grant Full Custody?

The vast majority of CT custody cases result in some form of joint or shared custody between the parents. The child doesn’t always spend equal time with each parent — shared parenting plans take many forms. The standard that the court uses when ruling on custody is the child’s best interest. Normally, Connecticut courts see a shared parenting plan as what’s in the child’s best interest.

The exceptions to this can include a significant history of domestic violence related to the child, substance abuse issues, or neglect on the part of one parent. Or, if one parent is deemed unfit or unable to provide a stable and safe environment for the child, the court may grant full custody to the other parent. Again, it is important to note that full custody does not necessarily mean that the non-custodial parent is completely cut off from the child’s life. Instead, the custodial parent has the final say in major decisions and has the primary responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care.

Read: What Does Child Custody Mean?

Read: Understanding the CT Courts’ Perspective on Best Interests of the Child

What is Joint Custody?

Joint custody, also known as shared custody or co-parenting, is a custody arrangement in which both parents share legal and physical custody of the child. This means that the child spends significant time with both parents, and both parents have an equal say in major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Joint custody aims to provide the child with a sense of stability and a continued relationship with both parents, even after the separation or divorce.

There are different types of joint custody arrangements, including joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal decision-making power regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and other important aspects of their life. Joint physical custody, on the other hand, means that the child spends equal or significant amounts of time with both parents, often on a rotating schedule.

Read: What Does Joint Custody Mean?

Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

Regardless of whether you have full custody vs. joint custody, successful co-parenting is essential for the well-being of your child (and your own calm). Here are some tips to help you navigate the co-parenting journey:

  • Communication is key: Keep the lines of communication open with your ex-partner. For some, technology, such as shared calendars or co-parenting apps, is useful to facilitate communication, reduce drama, and keep everyone on the same page.
  • Be flexible: Recognize that unexpected events or changes in schedules may arise. If possible and appropriate, be willing to adjust your plans and cooperate with your ex-partner to accommodate these changes. Hopefully, your flexibility will be reciprocated by your co-parent — and you’ll have set the stage for a harmonious co-parenting relationship.
  • Focus on the positive: It is easy to fall into the trap of getting caught up in negative emotions and past grievances. Don’t. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of the co-parenting relationship. Keep your child as your north star, and remember that kids benefit from having a loving and supportive relationship with both parents.
  • Respect boundaries: Respect the boundaries set by the custody agreement or court orders. For example, avoid speaking negatively about your ex-partner in front of your child, as this can be harmful to their well-being. Instead, encourage a healthy and respectful relationship between your child and their other parent.
  • Seek support: Co-parenting can be challenging, so don’t be afraid to seek support when needed. Onboard a therapist who does this type of work.

Read: 4 Tips for Effective Co-Parenting This Summer

Next Step

Full custody vs. joint custody will have a lasting impact on your child’s life and your life. To learn more about your options and to discuss our working together on your custody case, please contact us.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC