What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

When you get divorced, there has to be a parenting plan that covers where the children will live and who will make decisions for them.  In legal terms, where the children will live is called “physical custody” or a parenting schedule, and who will make decisions for the children is called “legal custody.”

Physical custody could have the children spending equal time with each parent, living only with one parent, and everything in between.  The most common parenting schedule involves the children living primarily with one parent and spending every other weekend and one to two nights every week with the other parent.

Legal custody regards who will make major decisions for the children regarding their education, medical care, religious teaching, and extra-curricular activities.  In most cases, both parents will have joint legal custody.  This means that they must communicate and agree on these major decisions.  The most common exception to joint legal custody is when the parents are not able to communicate and agree on decisions.  In these situations, one parent is usually given the primary decision-making responsibility.

It is always easier if the parents can agree on how to raise the children going forward.  If the parents cannot agree, the Judge will determine which parenting plan is in the children’s best interests.  In a situation where the parents are not able to agree, or one parent is just being unreasonable, we will involve the appropriate third-party professionals to help show why the Judge should adopt your proposed parenting plan.

I understand the importance of each step in the legal process. I will work with you the whole way to make sure that your parental rights and the best interests of your children are protected.

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