Legal Dictionary

alternating custody

Definition of alternating custody

Further reading

Alternating custody, also known as serial custody, is an arrangement in which children live for long periods of time with one parent, and then spend a similar amount of time with the other parent. The primary difference between alternating custody and joint custody is that in alternating custody, the parent that currently has the child also retains sole authority over the child/children for the duration that the child/children are with said parent. The general reason for using this arrangement rather than a more commonly used arrangement is that the parents tend to live too far away from each other to allow for other arrangements to be feasible.

Other forms of custody

  • sole custody - an arrangement whereby only one parent has physical and legal custody of a child.
  • joint custody - an arrangement whereby both parents have legal custody and/or both parents have physical custody.
  • split custody - an arrangement whereby one parent has full time custody over some children, and the other parent has full custody over the other children.
  • third-party custody - an arrangement in whereby the children do not remain with either biological parent, and are placed under the custody of a third person.
  • bird's nest custody - an arrangement whereby the parents go back and forth from a residence in which the child/children reside, placing the burden of upheaval and movement on the parents rather than the child/children.


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1.     lex causae
2.     lex situs
3.     lex loci celebrationis
4.     scienter
5.     lex domicilii
6.     AORO
7.     quorum
8.     adjudication order
9.     lex patriae
10.     Miranda warning