In Hawaii, there are several types of child custody: sole legal custody, joint legal custody, and physical custody. Before we get into a discussion of the differences between the types of child custody, it is important to know what child custody is all about.

Legal custody is the set of rights and responsibilities for making major decisions in a child’s life. These major decisions pertain to residence, education, health care and religious training. A parent having legal custody of their child should still confer with the parent who does not have custody, but if they cannot come to a joint decision the parent with legal custody has the final say.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is simply having a child in your own possession at the time. In Hawaii, the court will often designate the parent having legal custody as also having primary physical custody, meaning the child resides with that parent. The other parent usually gets visitation as the parties agree. If the parents cannot decide visitation jointly, the other parent can have a written visitation schedule and during visitation will have physical custody. The parent having physical child custody is able to make routine day-to-day decisions just like any parent can. These rights and responsibilities include setting aside time for homework and chores, taking baths, deciding what to have for dinner, and just having some fun time too.

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is often favored in the courts in Hawaii in which I regularly appear. Joint legal custody means that both parents consult with each other and agree with each other on any of the big picture decisions. If the parents having joint legal custody cannot agree on a major decision, such as which island the child will live on or whether to attend private school, the parents will have to return to court.

Sole Legal Custody

When parents cannot agree on how to raise their child together, one parent will wind up with sole legal custody. This parent gets to make the “big picture” decisions regarding how their child is going to be raised. The legal custodian’s decisions can, however, be reviewed by the court to see if the decisions are in the child’s best interests, such as when the parent with sole legal custody decides to move to the mainland or if the child is not getting proper care and education.


Whatever type of child custody you are contemplating, it is important to know that there are options that need to be explored. The type of child custody selected in your case is dependent on many factors that revolve around the best interests of your child. Every case is different and complex. You will need the assistance of an experienced child custody attorney such as Christopher Eggert at Eggert & Associates to get your best outcome. Contact us to learn more about what options are best for your particular situation.

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