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Physical vs. Legal Custody: What’s the Difference?

Did you know that there’s more than one type of custody? If you share children with a former partner or spouse, you’ll need to negotiate a custody agreement. Custody includes with whom the children live, but it also refers to a parent’s decision-making power over how their child is raised.

Physical custody

Physical custody is what most people think of when they hear about child custody. When you have physical custody, your child lives with you all or part of the time. This type of custody can be granted to one parent or shared between them. For example, parents who have 50/50 custody are both entitled to equal time with their children.

If you can agree on custody arrangements, you can create whichever schedule works best for you: 50/50, every other weekend or another system. If you’re unable to come to an agreement, the court will determine who gets custody and/or visitation based on the best interests of the child.

Legal custody

Legal custody is decision-making authority. Parents who have sole legal custody are entitled to make all decisions regarding school, religion, healthcare, social activities, childcare and more. If you share legal custody with your child’s other parent, you must make the decisions together.

It is possible to share one or both types of custody. For example, a mother might have sole physical custody of her kids because their father is frequently deployed overseas, but both parents share decision-making authority over the child. Again, courts consider what’s in the child’s best interests before making a custody determination—and if both parents are able to agree on terms, you can submit your proposed agreement to the court for approval.

Because custody determinations can be complicated, you can benefit from a great attorney on your side. Contact the skilled custody lawyers at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A. in St. Paul, MN to learn more about your rights as a parent.

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