The Law Defined: Child Custody

by Philip Yabut in

"close-up chick" by author In popular culture and media, the term "custody" gets thrown around a lot.  But what does it mean?  There are two types of custody: physical and legal.  The two are related, but have meanings that are quite different.

Physical custody: Determination of where child will live as well as who has responsibility for day-to-day care.  Courts can grant sole physical custody with right of visitation to the non-custodial parent, or grant joint physical custody where both parents share custody through a parenting plan or similar device.

Legal custody: Determination of who makes long-term and far-reaching decisions as to the child's welfare, health, education and religion.  This does NOT include day-to-day care, such as meals and entertainment.  Courts may grant joint legal custody or sole legal custody.  Separately, if a judge grants joint custody to parents who have trouble agreeing s/he may also grant final decision-making authority to one of the parents.

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