There are many types of child custody arrangements. The law uses certain terms to describe these arrangements. It is important for parents to understand these terms because they define the rights of the parents.
* Definition. Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make decisions regarding the general welfare of the child. For example, a parent with legal custody has the authority to make decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and religion.
* Types of Legal Custody:
(1) Sole Legal Custody. A parent with sole legal custody has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding the child’s general welfare. The other parent has no authority to make such decisions.
(2) Joint Legal Custody. If parents have joint legal custody, both parents make decisions about the child’s general welfare. Joint legal custody may be granted if the parents have demonstrated an ability to cooperate.
* Definition. Physical custody refers to the right of a parent to have actual, physical possession of a child. In other words, the child lives with the parent who has been granted physical custody.
* Types of Physical Custody:
(1) Sole Physical Custody. A parent with sole physical custody has the exclusive right to have the child live with him or her. Generally, the other parent, or “noncustodial parent,” has visitation rights. However, a court may prohibit all physical contact between the child and the noncustodial parent if the noncustodial parent has abused or neglected the child.
(2) Joint Physical Custody. When joint physical custody is granted to both parents, the child splits his time between the homes of each parent. The division of the child’s time between the parents is usually determined by a parenting plan or a court order.