Legal Dictionary

sole custody

Definition of sole custody


sole custody (uncountable)

  1. An arrangement whereby only one parent has physical and legal custody of a child while the other parent has visitation rights.

Related terms

Further reading

Sole custody arrangements have generally be considered a traditional form of custody for many in the past, however there has been a trend since the 1980s towards joint custody arrangements being more favorable. Sole custody consists of an arrangement whereby only one parent has physical and legal custody of a child.

Other forms of custody

  • alternating custody - an arrangement whereby the child/children live for an extended period of time with one parent, and then for a similar amount of time with the other parent. While the child/children are with the parent, that parent retains sole authority over the child/children.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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