If you have children and separate from or divorce your partner, one of the most pressing issues is child custody, which refers to your obligations and rights when raising your children. There are two types of custody—legal and physical, but what is the difference between legal and physical custody? One refers to major decisions made on your child’s behalf, while the other determines where your child will live.
If you are seeking legal and physical custody of your child, an experienced family law attorney could provide services to help you. They could assist you in establishing a parenting plan with your child’s other parent or petition the court to make custodial decisions for your family.
What Is Legal Custody?
Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions concerning a child, including, but not limited to medical decisions—such as choosing doctors, consenting to specific treatments, and deciding about other matters like vaccinations. Legal custody also grants the right for a parent to choose where their child attends school and whether to enroll them in tutoring or special education. Decisions about a child’s participation in extracurricular or religious activities may fall under the purview of legal custody.
When a parenting plan or court order grants joint legal custody, both parents have a say in major legal decisions relating to the child, with the expectation of reaching a consensus. A sole legal custody order may apply in some cases where one parent:
- Has a mental illness
- Has a history of domestic violence
- Is not involved in the child’s daily life
- Has problems with substance abuse that impair their ability to make sound decisions
What Is Physical Custody?
Physical custody relates to where the child will live most of the time. When parents have joint physical custody, the child spends time in each parent’s home. Some parenting agreements require a 50/50 division, but it is common for parents to have one parenting time schedule during the academic school year and another during the summer.
When one parent has sole physical custody of the child, the other parent usually has visitation or rights of access. Sole physical custody often applies in cases where the parents live far apart, so sharing access to the child is not practical, or when one parent has a mental illness or substance abuse issues that might make their home unstable for the child.
For More Information About Legal and Physical Custody, Contact Us
What is the difference between physical and legal custody? This is just one of the questions parents often ask when separating, and custody issues are often difficult for parents to work out independently. Whether you and your child’s other parent agree on custody matters and seek guidance drafting a parenting plan or modifying an existing parenting order, or you need assistance seeking sole physical and legal custody, an experienced family lawyer could help you through the process.
The legal team at The Capital Family & Divorce Law Group prides itself on advising and representing more than 1,000 clients. We have extensive experience handling the most challenging child custody issues and can give you the peace of mind that comes with having a loyal legal advocate on your side. For a private consultation with a knowledgeable family attorney, call us today.