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Understanding legal and physical custody as a parent 

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2023 | Family Law |

Parents going through divorce often worry about what will happen to their children. Who will care for their children? Will a parent lose the opportunity to be in their children’s lives as they grow? However, courts are often aware of these fears and can help parents work out a custody plan. 

A child custody plan determines parents’ rights and responsibilities over their children. Often the first thing that’s decided is whether parents get legal or physical custody. What is legal and physical custody? Here’s what you should know:

What is legal custody?

A child custody plan clarifies a parent’s legal right to raise their children. A parent with legal custody generally has the right to decide where their children go to school or who attends their extracurricular activities, for example. Or they may decide if their children are raised with a religious background and how often they attend ceremonies or gatherings. Parents with legal custody may also make decisions about a child’s medical care.

What is physical custody?

Children need a lot more in life than where they go to school. Children need shelter, food and clothing. This is typically all covered under a parent’s physical custody rights. Physical custody decides where children live and which parent is responsible for providing for their children’s needs.

Joint custody vs. sole custody

Parents’ legal and physical custody rights often determine whether a parenting plan is a joint or sole plan. Courts usually try to give each parent some physical and legal rights in a joint custody plan. But, in some cases where one parent isn’t fit to care for their children, the other parent can be awarded sole custody and have majority physical and legal rights.

Parents should be aware of their legal options when discussing their child custody rights. With the right knowledge, parents may seek a favorable child custody plan that benefits everyone. 

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