When people are getting a divorce and seeking custody of their children, they will sometimes refer to it as if custody itself is just one thing. But there are actually two different types of custody, which are legal and physical custody. It’s quite important to understand that these are not the same.
Additionally, you need to know that they do not have to be given out at the same time or to the same degree. For example, you may get shared physical custody of your child, but you may not get legal custody. In many cases, parents do have to share both, but it is not a guarantee, and this can have a massive impact on the outcome of your divorce.
Physical custody is fairly obvious, and it refers to your child’s living situation. If you and your ex share custody, for instance, then your child may live with you every other week. This is often what people are thinking about when they discuss custody because they want to know they will still get to see their children after they end their marriage.
But legal custody refers to the decision-making power that a parent has. When a child needs medical care, for example, a parent is allowed to decide which doctor they go see and what types of care they get. Parents can also do things like opening bank accounts for their children, enrolling them in school, taking them to religious services and much more. Parents who share legal custody need to make these decisions together, regardless of where the child is living at the time.
Custody can get complicated, so take the time to really look into the legal options you have.