What is the Difference Between Legal Custody and Physical Custody?
Child custody is broken down into two categories: legal custody and physical custody. Typically, both legal and physical custody is shared between the parents, however, the two types of custody can be arranged and shared by the parents in different ways.
Legal custody involves making important life decisions for your children. These decisions could be regarding where the children will go to school, what type of extracurricular activities they will participate in, the level of religious instruction they will receive, and when they will visit the doctor. In a marriage, these decisions are already shared between the two parents. During a divorce, it becomes more difficult to separately make these decisions. In most circumstances, a judge will try to keep legal custody as it had been during the marriage. Typically, the parents will share legal custody, and both make life decisions for their children.
Physical custody refers to who the children will live with. Physical custody can be either joint, meaning that the parents will share physical custody, or sole, meaning that the children will only live with one parent and the other may only visit the children. Most judges prefer to grant joint physical custody so that both parents can be regularly involved in their children’s lives. In the case of joint physical custody, the children reside in two real homes and will alternate living with each parent. Joint physical custody is not always a 50 percent split between the parents, but most judges aim for a division close that. Sole physical custody means that the children will fully reside with one parent and the other parent has the ability to schedule visitation with the children. This arrangement typically occurs when one parent already regularly has their children in their care far more often than the other parent.
The court will determine legal and physical custody separately, as several factors go into the ruling of both of these types of custody. Many judges wish to grant the parents an equal share of legal and physical custody in order to allow the children the opportunity to maintain a relationship with each parent. If you are in need of assistance with attaining child custody, contact Carlson & Work today at 775-386-2226.