When it comes to custody of a child, there are many types and variations. If you find that you cannot currently care for your child and you don’t want to place him or her with an adoptive family or in foster care, you do have other options. Your options depend on your end goal: permanent or temporary care, or care given by a relative or the state. Whatever your specific reasoning, legal custody is one of your many options to consider.

Your first step in considering your option of legal custody is to fully understand the basics. Consider it your foundation of knowledge. This foundation will provide you with a stable platform from which you can build. Below you’ll find common questions about legal custody and all that it entails. Familiarize yourself with them so that you can begin your journey with confidence.

What are the types of custody?

If the parents of the child are no longer together, there is physical custody, joint custody, and sole custody. Physical custody is when a child dominantly lives with one of the parents full-time. Visitations are still permitted, depending on the exact situation. Joint custody is when both parents are allowed to have the child stay with them. Generally, it is 50/50, but it can be whatever the judge decides is best. Sole custody is when one parent has the main responsibility for care and providing for the child. However, depending on the situation, visitation with the other parent is still permitted and generally encouraged. Keep in mind that while these are the main types of custody, there are many other definitions and subgroups that can affect the parent-child relationship.

What is legal custody?

The parents of the child are given legal custody, unless that custody was taken away or forfeited earlier. Having legal custody means that the parent has the right to make any and all decisions in relation to the child’s upbringing and well-being. This includes decisions on the topics of healthcare and medical care, religious practices and beliefs, and schooling. If you feel that you cannot care for your child, you have the option of giving legal custody to the other parent. If you have some personal problems or issues to work through, this may be a good option for you and your child. When you’re ready to parent, you can always go back to court and let a judge review your situation, your current status, and your improvement. It doesn’t always have to be permanent.

Determining if leaving legal custody to the other parent of your child is the right choice for you may take time, effort, and study. The best decision you can make is an informed decision. Make sure you understand all the processes, laws, regulations, and possible consequences of every decision before you make your final decision. Check with your state for more detailed information. If you feel overwhelmed with making a decision, consider consulting an attorney prior to any agreement or legal proceeding. He or she can also help you fully understand your state’s laws regarding legal custody and transferring that custody, if that is required in your case, and the exact process and route you’ll need to take. The important thing is that you feel comfortable with your decision. Remember, you should do what’s best for both you and the child. And that’s making an informed decision with confidence and hope.