Physical vs. Legal Custody: Understanding the Differences

As a parent going through a divorce, one of your top concerns will be establishing the best custody arrangement for your child. In order to do this, you need to understand the differences between physical and legal custody. It’s also important to understand the pros and cons of sole and joint custody. By understanding the differences of the custody choices, you can decide what you think would be best for your child.

Physical Custody

When you are awarded physical custody, it means that your child will get to reside with you part of the time and doesn’t necessarily mean that the time spent between both parents is 50/50. Although there are some cases where the parents share even amounts of physical custody, it’s also a possibility that one parent could be awarded a few days or several weekends a month, while the other parent has custody of the child for the rest of the time.

Legal Custody

A parent with legal custody is able to make legal decisions on behalf of his or her child. One prime example of this is if your child has a health issue and requires treatment. Any adult who does not have legal custody of the child would not legally be able to sign consent forms for treatment.

School permission slips are another instance where it might be helpful for both parents to have legal custody. It could be more convenient to share the legal responsibilities with your former spouse than to try to do it all yourself.

Sole Custody

A parent can have sole physical custody or sole legal custody of their child. If you believe the other parent might harm or flee with your child, sole custody is best. However, if your child is going to have a continued relationship with the other parent, you will want to give serious thought to your situation before asking for sole custody. In instances where both parents are going to be an active part of their child’s life, it is best to have joint custody.

Joint Custody

Joint custody means that both you and your former spouse have rights with your child. For example, joint physical custody means that your child will reside with both of you for a prearranged amount of time. Joint legal custody means that both parents can make legal decisions in the best interest of the child.

Need Help?

If you still can’t decide which form of custody is best for you and your child, let us help. At Fenchel Family Law, we are committed to helping you and your child get the best possible custody ruling. Our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer your questions. Give us a call today at (415) 805-9069 or contact us online to learn how we can help you.