For practical purposes this is a simple answer most of the time. Generally speaking most attorneys would say that Joint Physical Custody is any parenting arrangement after divorce where neither the father nor the mother is completely denied of time with their children. In other words, both parents get some time with their children that is unsupervised. (If it is supervised, that would be called visitation.)
In the same way, most attorneys would say that Sole Physical Custody is any parenting arrangement where one of the two parents get either only (1) visitation or (2) no visitation and no unsupervised custody. In some cases in Missouri however, this is not technically true, and, on occasion a case will once again surface where the definitions need to be revisited.
This last week on September 18 was one such occasion. The court had to make a decision as to whether a father with a couple days a week custody, a few extra days in the summer, and half the holidays could be called Sole Physical Custody by the mother. Sometimes, terms of law must be interpreted not by a definition listed in the law (this is usually what is referred to as a statute) but rather by terms surrounding it, experience and past law. Here, this was the case. Sole Physical Custody has no legal definition listed within the Missouri Statutes. The decision here came down to a question of whether or not the time was “substantial” enough to warrant being called Sole Physical Custody or Joint Physical Custody.
The Bottom Line: If your spouse is asking for sole physical, this will mean you do not get a substantial amount of time if he or she succeeds.