The Different Types of Child Custody

Dealing with child custody can be extremely difficult when families are getting divorced or separated. It’s both an emotional situation and a legal issue. It’s also one of the most important issues in all of family law. In Mississippi, the Law Offices of Rusty Williard are known for handling these sensitive cases with experience and compassion.

In this guide, we’ll help families understand the different types of custody available to them so these emotional decisions can become informed decisions. If you need answers specific to your situation, call our Brandon, MS office today.

Understanding Child Custody

Child custody is about figuring out who a child will live with and who gets to make the big decisions in their life. This becomes important when parents split up or get divorced. It’s not just about where the child sleeps at night but also about who decides what school they go to or when they need a doctor. These choices are incredibly important and can ultimately change a child’s life. The goal is to make sure the child is safe and happy and that both parents can still be involved in a way that’s best for the child.

Defining Custody

Child custody can be broken down into two areas: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child lives most of the time. This could mean living mainly with one parent or splitting time between both.

Legal custody is about who gets to make important decisions for the child. This includes choices about the child’s education, what kind of medical treatment they can receive, as well as their religious upbringing or extracurricular activities. Both types of custody are important because they ensure the child’s needs and best interests are met.

The Child’s Best Interests

At the heart of every custody decision is the idea of the child’s best interests. This idea helps judges decide who gets custody by making sure that the child’s well-being, safety, and happiness are the most important things that they consider. When making these decisions, they think about how old the child is, what their health is like, how strong their emotional connection is with each parent, and whether each parent can give them a stable and loving home.

Types of Child Custody in Mississippi

In Mississippi, there are different variations of child custody that impact where the child lives and the responsibilities of each parent.

  • Physical Custody: This is about where the child lives. It can be either Sole Physical Custody, where the child lives mostly with one parent, or Joint Physical Custody, where the child spends time living with both parents. This is decided based on things like the parents’ work schedules, where the child goes to school, and how far apart the parents live.
  • Legal Custody: This is about who makes the big decisions in the child’s life. It can also be either Sole Legal Custody, where only one parent has the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, or Joint Legal Custody, where both parents make these decisions together.

Sole vs. Joint Custody

Sole Custody (both physical and legal) might be granted when one parent is not fit to care for their child, or it’s better for the child to live with the other parent mainly.

Sole Custody Pros:

  • Stability: The child has one main home, which can offer a regular routine and environment.
  • Simplified Decision-Making: With one parent in charge, decisions can be made quicker and without the need for agreements between parents.
  • Better in High-Conflict Situations: If parents can’t get along, it might be less stressful for the child to have a primary home.

Sole Custody Cons:

  • Limited Parenting Time: The child might miss out on a close relationship with the other parent.
  • The Burden Falls on One Parent: All the responsibilities and decisions fall on one parent, which can be stressful for them.


Joint custody has been becoming more popular lately because it values the role of both parents in a child’s life.

Joint Custody Pros:

  • Both Parents Involved: Children benefit from the active attention of both parents in their lives.
  • Shared Responsibilities: Decision-making and childcare responsibilities are divided, which is easier on each parent.
  • Better Parent-Child Relationships: Regular interaction with both parents can lead to stronger bonds.

Joint Custody Cons:

  • Potential for Conflict: If parents don’t get along, the child might be caught in the middle.
  • Disruption: Moving between two homes can be hard for some children and affect their sense of stability.
  • Complicated Decision-Making: Parents need to communicate and agree on decisions, which can be challenging if they have different views.

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Modifications to custody arrangements can happen when there are big changes in a parent’s life or if it’s necessary for the child’s best interests. This might include situations like:

  • Relocation: A parent might need to move for various reasons, such as a new job, remarriage, or being closer to family. This can lead to a change in the custody arrangement, especially if the move affects the child’s routine or access to the other parent.
  • Changes in Employment: A parent’s new job, loss of a job, or a change in work hours could impact their ability to parent. This might mean adjusting custody to ensure the child’s needs are consistently met.
  • Changes in the Child’s Needs: As children grow, their educational, social, and health-related needs can change. For example, a child with new educational or medical needs might benefit from a different living arrangement.
  • Concerns About the Child’s Well-being: If there are new concerns about the child’s safety, health, or emotional well-being in their current living situation, this could lead to a custody review. This includes situations like one parent not providing a safe environment or failing to meet the child’s basic needs.

Call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard

The Law Offices of Rusty Williard are here to help families in Mississippi with all their child custody needs. If you need expert legal advice or you just need some important questions answered, call us today at (601) 824-9797.