The Best Custody Arrangements for Children

Establishing the best custody arrangements for a child must be accomplished on a case by cases basis, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law 2. What is ideal for a child -- and parents -- in one case may be inappropriate in another situation. All state laws recognize a variety of options when determining custody arrangements for a child. These statutes permit parents to attempt to negotiate and agree to an appropriate custody arrangement. Failing to reach such an agreement, the court establishes a custody scheme the judge deems most appropriate.

Legal custody refers to that element of a custodial arrangement or order addressing how major life decisions will be made for a child, according to Cornell Law School 1. Sole legal custody exists when only parent obtains authority to make decisions for a child. Joint legal custody represents the situation in which both parents share equally in decision making for the minor. Major life decisions include matters associated with religion, education and health care.

Joint legal custody is the best arrangement in circumstances where both are in a position to make responsible decisions for the child. Sole legal custody is preferable when only one parent reasonable can make meaningful decisions. For example, if one parent is incarcerated, in poor health or labors under an addiction, sole custody is a preferred arrangement.

Joint Residential Custody

Joint residential custody is defined a bit differently from one state to another. A beneficial arrangement in many cases, joint residential custody typically involves establishing a primary residence for the child with one parent, according to Cornell Law School 1. The non-custodial parent enjoys what often is defined as reasonable and regular parenting time or visitation with the child. The arrangement permits the child to maintain a stable home base as well as maintain a meaningful relationship with both parents.

Shared Residential Custody

Shared residential custody exists when both parents provide a residence for a child a substantially equal amount of the time. The primary benefit is that the child enjoys the companionship of both parents equally. Shared residential custody is a positive arrangement in cases where both parents live in fairly close proximity to one another. Close proximity is important in a shared residential custody arrangement to ensure ready access to the child's school and other locations frequented by the child 1.

Sole Residential Custody

Sole residential custody is the best arrangement for a child when one parent cannot provide significant care for the child, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law 2. For example, in an extreme case, one parent may be in significantly poor health or even incarcerated. Absent an extreme situation, the non-custodial parent likely will be entitled to parenting time or visitation.

Bird Nesting

A relatively new concept associated with residential custody is called bird nesting, according to All Academic Research. Bird nesting permits the child to reside in one home all of the time. The parents cycle in and out of the home on a predetermined schedule. This type of arrangement provides the child with complete residential stability.