What is the difference between physical and legal custody?

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2023 | Custody & Parental Access

If you are going through a divorce with children, you likely will have to identify a child custody plan. Child custody helps determine each parent’s rights, responsibilities and obligations to their children.

The biggest thing that will determine your parental rights is establishing physical and legal custody. What is physical and legal custody? Here’s what you should know:

Where your child lives

Physical custody is simply where your child lives daily. That means your child’s routine schedule will be decided by the parent(s) with physical custody. Parents with physical custody rights provide clothing, food, medical care, and a bedtime schedule.

How your child is raised

On the other hand, parents may be awarded legal custody rights. Legal custody involves determining a child’s upbringing. For example, this could mean deciding whether a child attends a public or private school and which parent attends school meetings. Parents may also be responsible for deciding a child’s health matters, dietary restrictions and religious upbringing.

Joint and sole custody

Each parent often believes that they should have the majority say when it comes to their children. When deciding on physical and legal custody, parents may be awarded joint or sole custody.

Joint custody gives both parents some legal and physical rights over their children. Each parent has visitation rights and communication is constant. But parents might also agree to a parallel parenting plan. Parallel parenting allows each parent to raise their children with as little communication from the other parent as possible (often done through email or text).

A parent with sole custody will handle all or most of the physical and legal rights with some or no involvement from the other parent. In other words, the parent with sole custody must provide shelter, food and clothing to their child and enroll them in school or give them a religious upbringing. The parent without any custody rights may have some visitation time with their child.

Joint and sole custody are intended to support the best interests of a child. If each parent can work together for the good of their child, then a judge will often award joint custody. If one parent has a record of behavior that puts a child’s health and safety at risk, such as substance abuse or violence, the other parent may be awarded sole custody.

Establishing who has legal and physical custody

In divorce, it’s about the kids and nothing is more important. Divorce is often an angry, upsetting and stressful time. As a parent, it is your job to do what’s best for your children. A qualified attorney can advise legal options when it comes to divorce and child custody. An attorney can also advise on child custody matters after the divorce is finalized.

At Poppe & Associates, our focus is relentless advocacy for our clients. If you or someone you know is considering a divorce, reach out to schedule a consultation online or by calling 646-665-3903.

Let Me Be Your Brave

Mia Poppe, Esq.

Mia Poppe, Esq.
Managing Partner