Which Is Better For My Family – Joint Custody Or Sole Custody?

When two people decide it’s time to end their marriage, the legal steps and emotional implications involved with that decision can be extremely difficult to navigate. When there are children involved, matters can become especially complex. If you’re considering your options for divorce and custody, you might be wondering whether joint or sole custody is best for your family.

While what’s “best” for every family is completely unique to their circumstances, it’s crucial to understand the differences between joint and sole custody so that you can make informed decisions regarding your family’s future. In this blog, we’ll define both types of custody, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and identify some factors to consider before choosing which to pursue.

What is Joint Custody?

There are two types of custody: legal and physical. Both of these types of custody can be shared jointly between two parents. In a joint legal custody situation, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for major decision-making when it comes to matters like education, healthcare, and religion. In a joint physical custody situation, physical custody is shared by the parents in a way that ensures the child has frequent and substantial contact with each parent. It does not guarantee an exactly equal amount of time with both parents.

What is Sole Custody?

Similarly, there is sole legal custody and sole physical custody. Sole legal custody means that one parent has the decision-making powers when it comes to education, healthcare, and religion. Sole physical custody means one parent has physical custody and the other parent has rights of visitation, except as otherwise provided by the court.

Factors You Should Consider

There are a variety of factors you should consider when trying to decide whether you want to pursue joint or sole custody, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Parenting abilities and relationship dynamics – What is your relationship like with your co-parent? In a joint custody situation, can you both work together for the sake of your child, or do you have concerns about communication, cooperation, and conflict out of spite?
  • Work schedules and logistics – Will joint custody help or hurt your family’s schedules? Will sole custody make it difficult to accommodate you and your co-parent’s day to day obligations? Or even your child’s extracurricular schedule? Custody should align with your family’s daily routines when appropriate.
  • Child’s preferences and needs – Is your child old enough to express a preference in your custody arrangement? Their thoughts and feelings are worth consideration to ensure their well-being and happiness.

Factors The Court Considers

It’s important to understand that the court is typically only involved in making custody decisions when you and your co-parent cannot agree. If that’s the case, under Alabama Code Title 30, the court is more likely to award joint custody in every case, but they may award any form of custody that is determined to be in the best interests of the child. To make this determination, they consider the following factors:

  • The agreement, or lack thereof, of the parents on joint custody.
  • Both parent’s past and present ability to collaborate with the other and make decisions on behalf of their child together.
  • The ability of both parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and their other parent.
  • Whether or not there is any history of or potential for child abuse, spouse abuse, or kidnapping.
  • The geographic proximity of the parents to one another.

Remember, the court may order a form of joint custody without the consent of both parents when it is in the best interest of the child.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Joint Custody


  • Reduced friction in your co-parenting relationship as you’ll be working collaboratively to meet the needs of your child
  • More support for you in navigating the complexities of parenting post-divorce
  • Can help ease the transition of divorce for your child


  • Difficulty in finding a new normal or balance for your child due to constant transition between homes
  • Potential to be working with a highly combative co-parent, making matters emotionally and mentally taxing for you and your child
  • Difficulty agreeing on certain decisions regarding your child’s education, healthcare, religion, etc.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Sole Custody


  • Stability for your child since there is no bouncing back and forth between homes.
  • You hold the decision-making power, which is especially important if your child’s other parent has a history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or neglect
  • The non-custodial parent can still have visitation.


  • Your child doesn’t have full access to the love and support of two parents
  • Your co-parent may be substantially lacking time with your child
  • If your co-parent is unhappy with the arrangement, you may get caught up in lengthy legal battles

Making The Decision

Like divorce, custody is a personal decision, and one that is unique to every family. What worked previously for friends and family, might not work for yours, and that’s okay. No matter which way you’re leaning when it comes to divorce, it’s important to remember that you aren’t the only party involved. While you may want sole or joint custody, your co-parent may not. That’s why it’s pivotal to work with an experienced custody lawyer who can explain your legal options and protect your parental rights. Professional help can be what makes the difference in a favorable outcome for you and your child and unnecessary stress and chaos.

How Foxtrot Family Law Can Help You

At Foxtrot Family Law, we understand how challenging and fragile this transition is for you. Your children are, after all, the most important people in your life. Keep in mind that this time is likely just as difficult and emotional for your child, so it’s imperative that the custody matters and your relationship with them be handled as delicately as possible. Our seasoned custody attorneys will help you navigate the road ahead in a way that lessens the emotional impacts of divorce and custody on your children’s lives. You can trust us to put your children’s needs and best interests at the forefront of all that we do. Call Foxtrot Family Law today to request a consultation and discover your next steps.

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