A common misconception is that custody refers to the physical custody of a child. Custody, however refers to who has the power to make major decisions for a child. That is, custody refers to which parent has the authority to make decisions for a child with respect to his or her: (a) education; (b) religion; (c) major non-emergency health care; and (d) major recreational activities. Notwithstanding the custodial arrangements, the day-to-day decisions for a child are made by the parent who is responsible for their care during such time.
The courts generally prefer joint custody arrangements where parents are able to communicate effectively and make decisions together. Where it is evident that parents are incapable of making decisions together or where it is clear that one parent has historically not been involved in decision making for a child, it is more likely that a sole custody order will be made. Sole custody refers to the scenario where one parent is responsible for making major decisions for the child and does not need the consent of the other party to determine an issue. For example, where there is a restraining Order or the existence of domestic violence, sole custody may be a more appropriate custodial arrangement.