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Child custody for fathers generally consists of the same options that are available to mothers. A father may get full legal or physical custody, or he may have to share custody with the mother. Since physical and legal custody are separate issues, it is important to understand that reaching an agreement on the terms of one does not necessarily affect the authority that a person has with regard to the other.
To begin with, it needs to be understood that child custody for fathers can be divided into two major issues. Those issues can then be handled in several ways. First, there is the issue of legal custody, which refers to who has the authority to make decisions for the child. Second, there is physical custody, which refers to arrangements regarding whom the child will live with.
Child custody for fathers includes the option to be the sole custodial parent. If a father is the sole custodian for either type of custody, he is the only parent who will have authority in that regard. On the contrary, if the mother has sole physical and legal custody, this means that the father cannot exercise any authority in the child’s life in any regard.
Each type of custody can be equally shared, or made joint. Joint legal custody means that both parents will have equal authority to make decisions for the child, such as how she is educated, where she worships, and whether she is allowed to participate in certain activities. Joint physical custody means that both parents can live with the child for equal or approximately equal amounts of time.
The manner that joint physical custody is handled can vary. Sometimes courts will determine how it is done, but in other instances the parents reach these agreements on their own. The child may, for example, stay with one parent for a number of months and then go to stay with the other. There is also an option that is sometimes referred to as bird’s nest custody. This arrangement allows the child to remain stationary, and the parents move in and out of the residence when it is each one’s turn to exercise physical custody.
The determination of one custody issue does not necessarily affect the other issue. It is possible, for example, that a father can have full physical custody but have joint legal custody. When agreements regarding child custody for fathers are made out of court, there is generally more flexibility to change them. When the agreements are made in court, however, the terms are usually binding until a court can be convinced that there is sufficient reason for change.