In family law matters, child custody is broken down into two elements: physical and legal custody. While the terms are easy to confuse, they have the ability to operate independently of each other, and it’s common for physical and legal custody to be applied differently in a child custody case. As a parent, it is important you know the difference between the two terms and how they could affect you and your children during a divorce.
Physical custody refers to where children live on a regular basis. It can either be joint or sole, but courts usually push for joint physical custody since it is usually in the best interest of the child to share time with each parent. A common joint physical custody agreement is a child staying one week with one parent and the following week with the other. In a sole physical custody agreement, one parent holds the primary timeshare with the child, while the other parent is given visitation rights. Usually you’ll see an agreement that involves 2 alternating weekends a month, and 1 weekday each week.
On the other hand, legal custody involves the responsibility of making important decisions in a child’s life, like where they go to school, when they go to the doctor, what extracurricular activities they play and which school they attend. In most cases, the court will grant joint legal custody, meaning both parents have the right and responsibility to make these decisions. Unfortunately, joint legal custody can become a battleground for parents who don’t see eye to eye. If there is ongoing conflict, a judge may give one parent sole legal custody. A judge may also grant sole custody if one parent lives far away, is abusive or neglectful, or isn’t involved in the child’s day-to-day life.
Physical and legal custody are two very important aspects of raising children when parents are divorced. It is crucial that both parents involved understand what these terms mean and how their children are affected by them. If you need help with child custody issues, please contact our Altamonte Springs family law attorney at the Law Office of Russell S. Hershkowitz, L.L.C. to discuss your case.
Call (407) 753-4111 or contact us online for a free consultation today.