What is a Child Custody Order?

May 11, 2024by Adam Sacks

Child Custody Orders

Child custody orders play a key role in ensuring the well-being and stability of a child who is caught in the midst of a divorce or separation. These orders are designed to protect the child and ensure they are raised in a consistent and secure environment.

A child custody order determines the rights and duties of each parent. It establishes who has physical custody of the child, including details about visitation schedules and shared parenting time. The order also governs decisions about where the child will live, go to school, and receive medical care.

When a co-parenting plan is accepted by the court, it becomes a legally binding obligation for both parents to follow. By having a court-sanctioned custody order, parents are less likely to deviate from their agreed-upon plan, which helps to maintain stability and predictability in the child’s life.

During custody disputes, temporary custody orders can provide necessary stability. While the long-term custody arrangements are being worked out, the temporary order offers a temporary solution, granting one parent custody rights until a final decision is made.


Child Custody Orders


Types of Child Custody

Child custody arrangements vary depending on the specific needs and circumstances of each family. Understanding these different types of custody can help parents make informed decisions that prioritize the best interests of the child involved.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to have a child live with them regularly. It involves the day-to-day care and control of the child’s physical needs, such as providing food, shelter, and a safe environment. Physical custody can be either sole or joint.

Sole physical custody means that one parent has primary physical custody of the child. The child lives with this parent most of the time, and the other parent typically has visitation rights. In this arrangement, the parent with sole physical custody has the primary responsibility for making decisions regarding the child’s daily routine, education, healthcare, and general well-being.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the legal right of a parent or guardian to make important decisions on behalf of a child. These decisions typically relate to education, healthcare, and religious training.

By having legal custody, a parent can make decisions that reflect their values and beliefs, while also taking into account the child’s needs and preferences. For instance, in the realm of education, the custodial parent can choose the appropriate school or educational program that aligns with the child’s educational goals and values. A judge may grant either sole legal custody or joint legal custody.


Legal Custody

Joint Custody

Joint custody allows both parents to share the responsibility of raising their child. In joint custody, the parents are referred to as joint managing conservators, indicating that they have equal rights and responsibilities in making decisions for the child. However, there is often a primary custodial parent who has physical custody of the child and serves as the child’s primary caregiver.

The primary custodial parent typically has the child living with them for the majority of the time. This parent has the authority to make day-to-day decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including matters related to education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities.

The joint managing conservators, on the other hand, are required to collaborate and agree on major decisions, such as where the child will attend school or whether to pursue medical treatment.

When determining joint custody arrangements, the court considers a variety of factors. One key factor is the parent’s ability to communicate and make joint decisions for the child’s best interest. Cooperative and effective communication is crucial in ensuring that the child’s needs and preferences are met.

The court also considers the child’s relationships and preferences. For example, if a child has a strong bond with both parents and expresses a desire to spend equal time with each other, the court may be more inclined to grant joint custody. The court takes into account employment considerations, such as each parent’s work schedule and their ability to provide a stable and suitable environment for the child.

Sole Custody

Sole custody refers to a legal arrangement where one parent is granted exclusive rights and responsibilities for a child’s upbringing and it is the opposite of joint custody. It can be further divided into two main forms: sole legal custody and sole physical custody.

Sole legal custody gives one parent the authority to make major decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and religious training without requiring input from the other parent. This means that the parent with sole legal custody has the final say in determining important aspects of the child’s life and upbringing.

On the other hand, sole physical custody refers to a situation where the child primarily resides with one parent, and the other parent is granted visitation rights. In this arrangement, the parent with sole physical custody has the responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care, including their living arrangements, daily routines, and basic needs.


Sole Custody


Q. What is a child custody order?

A child custody order is a legal document issued by a court that outlines the responsibilities and rights of each parent regarding the care and control of their children following a divorce or separation. [1]

Q. How do courts determine child custody?

Courts typically base their child custody decisions on the best interests of the child. Factors may include the child’s age, emotional ties between the child and the parents, the parents’ ability to care for the child, any history of family violence or substance abuse, and the child’s wishes depending on their age and maturity. [2]

Q. Can a child custody order be modified?

Yes, child custody orders are not permanent and can be modified if there’s a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s best interests. This could include changes in a parent’s job, relocation, or alterations in the child’s needs. [3]



[1] Heinig, M., & Attorney. (n.d.). Understanding Child Custody. Www.nolo.com. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/child-custody-faq.html

[2]  Devendorf, J. (2023, November 27). How Does the Court Determine Who Gets the Children? LawInfo.com. https://www.lawinfo.com/resources/child-custody-lawyers/how-does-the-court-decide-who-gets-the-childr.html

[3] 10 Reasons A Judge Will Change A Custody Order – Forbes Advisor. (n.d.). Www.forbes.com. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/child-custody/reasons-judge-will-change-custody/

by Adam Sacks

Adam Sacks is lead Family Law Attorney at Law Offices of Sacks & Sacks, P.A. in Jacksonville, Florida. He has a BA in Psychology from 1994, and received his Juris Doctor Degree in 1999 from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Sacks and Sacks Law
1646 Emerson St. Suite B Jacksonville, FL 32207

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