Reaching a child custody agreement can be a confusing and difficult time for a parent. Everyone wants what is best for their child, but the process may be fraught with emotion. Factor in the complex nature of the court system and any parent may feel overwhelmed.

The custody process will seem much more manageable once you know the various types of child custody. It can also help you determine the custody arrangement that is best for your family. These are the four different types of child custody:

1. Physical

Physical custody refers to the right of a parent to have the child live with them. It is possible for one or both parents to be granted physical custody. Joint physical custody is typically only granted when the parents live reasonably close to each other. Generally, one parent will be awarded sole physical custody if the parents live far apart or if the court has deemed the other parent unfit for physical custody.

2. Legal

A parent who has legal custody has the right to make legal decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including the child’s education, religion and medical care. It is common for the court to award joint legal custody following a breakup or divorce so that both parents can have input over the child’s upbringing. If parents are unable to cooperate when it comes to decision-making, the court may sometimes step in to enforce the order for joint legal custody.

3. Sole

In some situations, it is best for only one parent to have significant influence in a child’s life. This may occur if one parent has substance abuse issues, has been abusive or has major financial troubles. Sole custody can refer to sole physical custody or sole legal custody. If one parent has sole physical custody, it means that the child lives with only that parent. Sole legal custody means that only one parent gets to make life decisions for the child.

4. Joint

As mentioned earlier, joint custody is when both parents share physical or legal custody of a child. Joint custody is not necessarily fifty-fifty. The child may live more often with one parent than the other, or one parent may have more influence over the child’s upbringing.