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The Definitive Guide to Child Custody In Divorce

This post covers everything you need to know before you do any crucial decisions reagrding child custody. If you think this is helpful, feel free to leave a comment. If there are any questions left, contact me via the contact page. 😀

Niels Klement, Child of Divorce

When it comes to divorce or a separation, child custody is one of the hardest topics to understand and fully comprehend.

I created this post as an ultimate resource for you, so you do not have to crawl the web for more answers.

I’m covering everything you should know before making any crucial decisions that affect the way you and your co-parent handle your child’s matters and residence in a separated family.

I would like to point out, that the statements and explanations made in this post, are based on intensive and profound research including my own experiences during my parent’s divorce.

This is just for informational purposes and is created to bring you the most value and help during a divorce.

Let’s get started!


Child custody describes the legal and practical relationship between a parent and a child. It also decides over the so-called, ”visitation” of the parent, who is not living with the child. When parents separate, they have to decide which kind of child custody suits their situation best.


There are various types of child custody and agreements you can choose from, depending on your situation. For me personally, since this blog is made for parents who want to save their child from bad consequences of divorce, I would recommend having a joint custody (No. 3 on the list).

That means coarsely, the parents are sharing their time with the kids regularly and also are sharing the right to make legal and physical decisions. By creating an environment that is as equal as possible to the one that your child experienced before the break-up, you increase your child’s joy and overall comfortable feel, during the rough times.


1. Physical Custody

This type of custody determines one parent as the “custodial” parent, who is then responsible to take care of the child on a daily basis. So to say, this specifies where your child is going to live most of the time.

The so-called “non-custodial parent”, gets granted visitation rights and sometimes, a shared “legal custody”. The non-custodial parent gets exclusive time with the children, which is most commonly every other weekend, a specific amount of days during holiday and a few weeks on all school vacations.


2. Legal Custody

The “legal custody” gives a parent the right to make legal decisions about key aspects of the child’s upbringing process. This includes the right to decide about further education, medical care and other legal incidents your child gets in touch with such as financial and religious matters.

I would like to point out that if you have a “joint legal custody”, which means that both parents got granted legal custody, there always need to be both parents involved and must agree on the same terms to make legal decisions involving the child. I share the pros and cons of a “joint custody in the next point.


3. Joint Custody

The word “joint custody” is just a fancy way of saying that both parents have the same rights in a specific type of custody. It means that both parents are equally responsible for the upbringing process of the child regarding the type of custody they got granted.

In most cases, both parents have equal leverage in every type of custody, such as a “joint legal-” or a “joint physical custody”, which is in my eyes the way to creating less friction for a child of divorce.

It might arise a few disputes here and there between you and your co-parent but since the purpose of this blog is to always look for the child’s best interest, it is definitely the way to do so.

What you should keep in mind is that if your ex or co-parent is incapable of making crucial decisions about and for your child because of things like mental illness or drug abuse, you should consider sole custody, which I’ll explain now.


4. Sole Custody

A custody arrangement is called a “sole custody” as soon as just one parent has the “sole physical-” or “sole legal custody”. This means that one parent who gets granted this sole custody is exclusively the only parent who has a right to make decisions for the child.

This kind of custody is very rare in the US but is totally necessary if your situation suits specific patterns such as domestic violence, drug addiction or even child abuse.

The non-custodial parent is able to have visitation rights but has to get supervised when visiting the child.


There are pros and cons to every type of custody.

The joint custody is often compared to the sole custody, which gives just one parent all custody rights.

The joint custody model defines both parents as “custodial”. From my perspective, unlike the sole custody, the joint custody arrangement has many aspects on the positive site.

Of course, you may be unable to have a joint custody because of some factors that make one parent incapable of being responsible but in most cases, you should try to have a shared custody to make life easier for your child.

So to give you a good perspective, I explain more about the pros and cons of joint custody now.


The principle of a joint custody is a great way to keep your child feeling related to both parties, you and your co-parent.

As your child grows, he can make more and more legal decisions with both parents to make him feel more comfortable.

Furthermore, it takes the pressure of having to go with different parents dependent on the current needs of your child. When having a joint custody, there is a lot less being torn for your child.

On the other hand, a joint custody model may create some conflicts of legal and physical matters between you and your ex.

Since it pertains your child, consider consulting him or her when it reached a certain age and healed a bit from the grueling process of divorce to make necessary decisions.

I think you can determine at what age or stage your child is capable of dealing with those kinds of decisions.

For me, it was round about the age of 15, where the divorce happened 4 years ago.


Creating timesharing guidelines seems really hard.
Still, there are some rules of thumb you can hold onto when creating your own guidelines.

To speed things up, I created this little eBook for you to have a detailed insight on how parents should share their time depending on their offsprings age.

you can download it directly here:

1st Rule of Thumb

Your child has to have one main place to stay.
Even though both parents got granted physical custody, you should not make your child run from house to house every other week.

For the normal work weeks, I would recommend having the child stay in one place and then visit the other parent every other weekend. This is what worked for me and my parents when we were in this situation.

Keep in mind that is maybe just true for me because of how my situation was at that time. You should share your time and [create guidelines based on your own circumstances].

To repeat it: Have a primary and a secondary home for your child, to not confuse or stress him out. Most commonly, the primary household for the child should be the one who he had the deepest and best relationship to.
If that is not yours, please be humble to make things easier and avoid extra conflicts for your child and admit it. Do what’s best for your child.


2nd Rule of Thumb

Have it planned out.
When you created your guidelines everyone who’s affected agrees on, you already did the hardest job. Now it is on you to plan those ahead of time.

When will the next visitation Weekends be? Who gets which week in which holidays or vacations?

These are all things you need to think about, in order to create less friction. When everything is planned out, you and your co-parent are better able to manage your time for those specific days your child is at your place.


Child custody itself is not really affected by age legally.

Still, you should be aware of how the relationship between parents and children change when they get older. Of course, this is mostly interesting for the parents who are are not handling the residence of the child.

Once again, I created this little e-Book for you, so you have a great outline to stick to when worrying about how you should share time as parents according to the child’s age. Download it here


Let me start off with this: by saying that you want to “win” child custody, you are already moving in the wrong direction.

In considerable normal circumstances, a fight about the custody of a child will not only hurt your competitor but drastically affect your child’s emotional well-being. And that’s definitely not the way you want to go. Sadly, most parents fight for custody for selfish reasons.

No question, when both parents compete about sole custody and you know that your child’s upbringing process is highly endangered when your co-parent has the full leverage, it is obviously okay to fight for custody.

I listed a few things here that you should keep in mind if you want to get granted full custody by the court, just in case the above-described situation applies.

Show that you are the better parent

Some parents go into a hearing of child custody with the intention of seeking sole custody because they think the other parent is incapable of providing a healthy environment for the child. If that is the case, try to show to the court that you are better able to do so with these things:


  • Show the Physical Well-Being of the Child

Explain how you are able to focus on your child’s daily routine, sleeping habits, eating schedule, and after-school activities, because judges often make decisions based on the quality your child’s life has when living with you. They also tend to encourage a healthy lifestyle.


  • Show the Psychological Well-Being of the Child

Showcase how much you care about the child’s well-being and embrace that you are willing to provide access to regular visitations for the other parent. Many judges really like seeing a parent supporting the ongoing relationship with the other parent.


Furthermore, I recommend teaching yourself about family and custody law to be prepared in every situation and always be the bigger person (being punctual and reliable). These are also things that come into play when deciding over custody.

Another quick disclaimer: Always consult your personal lawyer to plan out legally accurate arguments for the hearing.


As I already stated above, you should, of course, go in for a sole custody if your ex-spouse has problems with drugs or even had an incident of domestic violence. Don’t worry, if that’s the case, there is a really big chance that the court is going to give full custody to you, especially when something like domestic violence was involved.

But if you have problems with drug abuse by yourself, you should first start looking in the mirror before you take on responsibility for another person who is then reliant on you. Also, you’ll clearly have a lower chance to succeed when filing for custody in the eyes of the court.

So please, If you really want to care for your child, be sure to have a great impression on the judge so you will be chosen for being the better fitting for custody.


You can easily tell what the “best interest rule” is if you understood what I wanted to convey above. The rule suggests that all decisions made are in the best interest of the child.

This means the goal of this rule is ensuring a child’s happiness, security and overall well being. This is mostly defined by many different factors such as the child’s health, environment, and social interest.

This is also what most courts will look out for when deciding about who gets granted custody and it is of course the reason why I created this blog.


In an unwed family, the mother gets normally granted full custody if there is no established paternity by a father. Without paternity, the father has practically no legal right regarding visitation and welfare of the child. For example, paternity can be established by being noted as the father on the baby’s birth certificate.

If you are a father finding yourself in that situation, here is a detailed post from verywell family going really in depth on this topic. I recommend you check that out.

Again, when an unwed family or couple separates, the mother will get the full custody, unless she’s incapable to raise a child in a good environment or is clearly unfit. But if that’s not the case, there is a high chance that the full custody is kept by the mother.

Still, if you want to have some form of child custody as a father, you should consider having a joint custody or even just accept that the mother has full custody so you can still have visitation rights.


As the non-custodial parent, regardless of your custody state, you are financially responsible for the well-being of the child. In a separated couple, paying child support becomes a legal obligation determined by the court.

To avoid that, you could terminate your paternity which would also sever you from your child forever. This is of course just true if you are the father.

The fee the non-custodial parent has to pay for child support may vary individually considering your situation. There are a lot of factors that come into play here such as financial resources, needs of the children and whether or not the non-custodial parent has some form of visitation rights.


Phew! That’s a lot to know!
If you are really interested in child custody, I think this post will help you out a lot. It is one of the most asked questions on my Blog.

Again, if you are interested in getting a little overview on how to share your parenting time according to child’s age, download my little eBook for free here.

Thank you so much for reading this!
I put a lot of hard work into it, to provide you with all the information necessary to educate you about your first questions on this topic.

As always, if you have anything left that is not clear to you, feel free to contact me via the contact page or write an email directly to


Hi! I'm Niels.

Born in Germany and a child of divorce. I’ve built this Blog in cooperation with two great kids therapists (including the one I had to visit for years) to give you proven resources about how to lead children through the process of divorce without getting them emotionally and psychologically hurt like I had to experience.

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