A "sole physical custody award" is one in which a court issues an order that the child or children will live with one parent, while the other parent is given rights of visitation.
When parents separate and cannot agree where a child shall live, the court will consider a number of factors and will then decide whether the parents should share custody of the child or if the child should live with one parent. Using the best interests of the child as the goal, the court will weigh each factor to determine whether it weighs in favor of the father or the mother. These factors include the health and education of each parent, where each parent lives, the ability of the parent to provide for the child, the relationship between the child and the parent, the child's preference, the parent's ability to encourage the relationship between the child and the other parent, any abusive conduct, or any other matter that might affect a child. After considering all the factors, a court may find that it is in the best interests of the child that the child live with one parent. The other parent is awarded period of visitation.
One goal of the court in a custody dispute is to encourage the relationship between the child and both parents. In determining visitation, the court will look at the child's activities, the parent's work schedule, where the parent lives in relation to the child and the child's school, and will award visitation based on what is practical. Often periods of visitation include a number of week-ends, time over school breaks, vacation times, and holidays. Where it is reasonable for the parent with visitation to take the child to school, visitation may include weekday evening or overnights.
However, where there is evidence of abusive or violent conduct, visitation can be restricted in terms of time and place and may be subject to monitoring and supervision.
The parent who is awarded physical custody has the right to choose where to live. This includes the right of the parent with sole custody to move to another community or to a different state. In some states, the parent with custody is entitled to remain in the marital home for a number of years. The custodial parent may enroll the child in a number of activities, such as after school classes, scout activities, church activities, and sports leagues. What the parent may not do is interfere with the relationship between the child and the other parent. The parent with physical custody cannot tell the other parent what to feed the child, absent a known health problem, where to go or not go on vacation, what relatives to see or not see, or even when the child must go to bed. The custodial parent also cannot compel the noncustodial parent to take the child to all the planned activities.
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