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What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2022 | Child Custody

Like divorces, custody battles are never easy, even when they are amicable. You are still splitting up a family, and you and your children are likely to experience some challenges.

In addition, if you are not part of the legal profession, you may fully understand the nuances of child custody types. For example, there is a significant difference between physical and legal custody.

Physical custody

Physical custody refers to where the children spend the majority of their time. It is where they live. Judges typically encourage joint physical custody. However, you could receive sole physical custody when it is in the best interest of the children.

If you have sole physical custody, you could move with your children without the court’s approval, but this ability differs by state. The non-custodial parent can fight this move, however.

Legal custody

You can have legal custody of your children without having physical custody. This type of arrangement allows you to make decisions for your children, their care and their lives. For example, legal custody allows you to determine what schools they attend, child care they receive, religious activities they participate in and any counseling they need.

Family courts tend to encourage divorced or separated parents to continue making these decisions together, so legal custody is often shared. When you and your former partner live far away from each other, if there was abuse in the relationship or if the child does not interact with one parent on a regular basis, the judge may award joint legal custody.

To protect yourself and your children, learn about your state’s custody laws and the court’s preferences in your area. Find out your parental rights and obligations whether you have physical or legal custody or both.