6 Important Things to Understand About Child Custody After a Divorce

By  //  May 21, 2023

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Divorce is never an easy process. It is often tricky, scary, and painful. Things get even worse if the involved parties have kids together and can’t agree on child custody. 

The good news is that you can make things less overwhelming if you understand how child custody works, the various terms often used, and what the local laws dictate. 

But worry not, as this guide highlights several essential things you need to know about child custody after divorce. 

  1. Full Custody and Sole Custody are Different Things

Full custody and sole custody are standard terms in any divorce proceeding involving children. While most people often use them interchangeably, these two are different, and you should understand their difference in the early stages of your divorce case.

Full custody typically implies that one parent has been granted primary physical custody of the child but shares legal decision-making responsibilities with the other parent. Essentially, it allows both parents to maintain a say in important decisions affecting their child while addressing the practicalities of living arrangements.

The court often considers various factors when granting full custody to one parent. This includes mental illness, neglect, and substance abuse. Therefore, if you are going through a divorce, hiring a skilled divorce attorney that explains how to get full custody of your child is important if you believe it is in your child’s best interest. 

On the other hand, sole custody refers to a situation where one parent is granted both legal and physical custody of the child. This means that the child lives primarily with this parent, who also has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, medical care, and other significant issues. Unlike full custody, sole custody denies visitation rights to the other parent. 

  1. The Court Will Likely Rule in Favor of Shared Custody

Judges recognize the importance of children having a meaningful relationship with both parents. This recognition stems from research showing that children benefit from maintaining strong bonds with both parents, provided it is safe and in their best interests.

Therefore, most courts prefer joint custody arrangements. That means both parents share physical and legal custody responsibilities, making decisions together for the child’s well-being.

However, the degree to which joint custody is favored varies from state to state. In addition, other factors, such as the child’s age and the parent’s ability to cooperate, can also influence the court’s decision. 

  1.  Custody and Child Support are Separate Matters

Custody arrangements and child support are separate entities. So, ensure you approach them differently and consult with a legal professional to fully comprehend the implications in your specific jurisdiction.

While child custody determines who gets to live with the child and who gets to spend time with the child for a limited time, child support refers to the financial assistance one parent gives to the other for the upbringing and care of their child. It is calculated based on factors such as income, custody arrangement, and the child’s needs.

  1. Withholding Parenting Time from Your Ex Can Have Legal Implications

Withholding parenting time from the other parent after a divorce or separation is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. It is generally discouraged and may have legal consequences.

One common misconception is that withholding parenting time is justified if the other parent is not complying with their financial obligations, such as child support or alimony. However, you need to understand that child support differs from child custody and shouldn’t be used to deny the other parent their scheduled parenting time. 

If you believe withholding parenting time is necessary due to concerns about the child’s safety, consider filing an emergency motion to alter child custody. However, the threshold for restricting visitation rights is typically high, and you must provide evidence to support your claims.

  1. Child Custody Laws May Vary from State to State

Child custody laws are primarily governed by state regulations, and each state may have its own rules and standards. Consequently, it is essential to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney in your state to understand the specific legal framework that applies to your situation.

If you can’t access an attorney, conduct thorough research online or from parents who have had experiences similar to yours. Fortunately, state websites and numerous legal resources often provide information on child custody laws, guidelines, and processes.

  1. You Can Report an EX Who Isn’t Obeying Custody Arrangements

Unfortunately, some parents fail to adhere to custody orders, potentially causing disruption and stress for children and their ex-spouses. If your ex consistently violates custody arrangements, taking appropriate action is crucial.

Violations can vary from minor infractions, such as consistently being late for pick-ups, to serious offenses, like parental kidnapping. If an ex shows potentially criminal behavior, such as parental kidnapping, report them to law enforcement. 

For other minor custody-related issues, you will need to return to family court and ask a judge to enforce the custody orders. The court may require mediation or issue an order for the non-compliant parent to comply. 


Child custody after a divorce is a complex and emotionally charged issue. However, by understanding key aspects surrounding this issue, parents can navigate the process more effectively and protect the best interests of their children even after divorce.