Understanding Physical Custody in Child Custody Matters

Understanding Physical Custody in Child Custody Matters

wedding rings and a baby footWhen a couple divorces or when unmarried parents end their relationship, any child born of the relationship is the subject of a custody determination. Parents need to determine who the child may reside with primarily, and what kind of visitation the other parent will get. A number of different factors can influence if one parent retains sole custody or if the parents share custody. Whatever the outcome, it should always be in the child’s best interest.

Sole Physical Custody

Sole physical custody refers to when one parent has sole residential custody of a child. This means that the child resides with one parent all of the time, or the majority of the time. A parent may have sole physical custody if the child spends less than two overnights per week with the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent has the right to visitation, which can include overnights, vacation time, and holidays.


When  determining visitation, the parents should come up with an adequate parenting schedule in the child’s best interest. This schedule should put in specific terms when the non-custodial parent gets parenting time with the child. The schedule can include what days out of the week the child can spend with the parent, such as weekends, if the non-custodial parent should participate in after-school activities or sports with the child, and what holidays the child spends with which parent.

Shared Physical Custody

Parents may have the option to share physical custody of their child or children, when it is in the child’s best interest and if it is feasible. Parents have shared physical custody if the child spends more than two overnights a week with each parent. In this case, one parent can be the parent of primary resident, while the other parent is the parent of alternate residence. Although parents have shared physical custody, it may work out that one parent still has a little more time with the child than the other due to other circumstances like school, after-school activities, or holidays. However, the child generally spends nearly equal time with both parents.

If you need help with your custody matter, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.

The Law Office of Toby Grabelle, LLC is a family and divorce law firm serving Monmouth County and all of New Jersey that would be happy to assist you in legal counsel. If you need quality legal services, contact the firm for a consultation