How does legal custody differ from physical custody?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2019 | Child Custody

In California, child custody is often the basis of the most longstanding disputes in a family law proceeding. Divorce is difficult in and of itself, but, when there are children involved, it becomes even more complex. Not only can battling over a child lead to acrimony between the parties, it can frequently have a negative impact on the child. The key to a child custody case from the court’s perspective is to serve the child’s best interests. Parents should consider their alternatives regarding child custody and have legal assistance from the start.

Parents can have two types of custody: legal and physical. Legal custody involves the ability to make key decisions in the upbringing of the child. This includes their welfare, medical care, education and more. Physical custody means where the child will live.

There are two kinds of legal custody: joint custody and sole custody. With joint custody, the parents will share the rights and responsibilities regarding the vital decisions for the child. Sole custody means that one parent alone has those rights.

If the parent has legal custody, they can decide on the child’s schooling; child care; what religious activities they take part in; if they need and receive therapy; dental care; what sports, vacations and other activities they are involved in; where they travel; and where they live. When legal custody is shared, the parents are both involved, but there does not need to be agreement on every issue. Communication can avoid disputes that might lead to court intervention.

With physical custody, the child does not necessarily need to be with each parent 50% of the time. In general, the child will be with one parent more than the other because it can be complicated to have a completely split percentage. If one parent has the child more often, the parent can be referred to as the primary custodial parent. If a parent does not have physical custody, they will likely have visitation rights.

With a custody issue as part of a divorce, legal help can be beneficial. Before moving forward with any decision, legal advice is vital to dealing with a child custody case.

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