Photo of Professionals at Weinberg, Kaplan & Smith, P.A.
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Physical and legal custody are much different

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2024 | Custody

When two people get divorced, if they have children, then they have to figure out how to split up custody after the divorce. Some couples are able to do this amicably and settle on an arrangement themselves. Others need to turn to the court, which can issue a custody order.

If you find yourself in this position, one important thing to remember is that both physical and legal custody are very different. Custody is not just a singular legal right that is assigned to one parent or the other. There are two main types of custody, and they can be divided up differently.

What is the difference?

The difference is essentially that physical custody refers to the parent who will be physically present with the child and live with them. For instance, a father may have custody for one week and then the child’s mother has custody for the following week. The child moves back and forth between each parent’s home.

Legal custody, on the other hand, has nothing to do with where the child lives. It focuses on making decisions for the child. 

For instance, if legal custody is shared between both parents, then they have to communicate and work together to make decisions about healthcare, schooling, religion and the like. Even the parent who currently has physical custody does not necessarily have the right to make these decisions on their own. If legal custody is still shared jointly between both co-parents, they have to work together.

Issues like this can lead to disputes between co-parents. If you’re in this position, it is very important to know how custody has been divided, what rights you have as a co-parent and what steps you can take to resolve a dispute.