In 2016, the divorce rate was 3.2 per 1,000 people. While this was down from 4.0 in 2000, divorce still affects millions of families. If you’re a parent who’s going through a separation, it will be important to know the difference between physical and legal custody.
What Is Legal Custody?
If a parent has legal custody of a child, he or she has the ability to make important life decisions on that child’s behalf. These decisions could relate to everything from health care to religious beliefs. Parents with legal custody may also have a say in how their child is educated or disciplined.
What Is Physical Custody?
When a parent has physical custody, it means that the child lives with him or her the majority of the time. It is important to note that the noncustodial parent may still have the right to see or otherwise interact with the child. The child might also spend time at the other parent’s home either during the day or overnight as part of a visitation schedule.
Can Parents Have One Type of Custody Without the Other?
Yes, it is possible that a parent will obtain legal custody rights to a child without having physical custody rights. In a custody case, courts strive to make rulings that are in the best interests of the child. Depending on where the parents live or their work schedules, it might not be feasible for both to have physical custody of the child. However, such rulings may not preclude a parent from being granted legal custody if he or she has the ability to remain actively involved in a child’s life.
Can Parents Share Custody of Their Children?
Depending on the details of a case, it is possible for parents to share both legal and physical custody of their kids. It is also possible that a parent could have sole legal custody while sharing physical custody of a child. In some cases, the parents themselves will decide that one parent is better suited to make decisions for the child even when both are fit to be around the son or daughter. The final agreement will likely come down to the unique circumstances of the family involved.
Who Decides How Custody Matters Are Resolved?
In some cases, the parents themselves will decide how to divide custody of their children. This is determined as part of an overall parenting plan that will both work for them and be in the best interest of the child. However, if they are not able to come to an agreement on their own, a judge will make a ruling. Typically, parents are asked to resolve their differences through mediation or arbitration before asking a judge to make a ruling. A collaborative approach is generally a better option for parents as it will ultimately provide them greater control over the final outcome.
Can Custody Agreements Change Over Time?
It is possible that a custody agreement will change over time. For example, this could happen if one parent has to move to another town or state for a job opportunity or relocate closer to family members. A custody arrangement could also change when the child gets older and is better able to express his or her own living preferences. If a parent is given limited custody rights because of a criminal history or other factors deemed problematic by a court, he or she could gain expanded rights by overcoming those concerns.
The Law Prefers Both Parents Being in a Child’s Life
Assuming that neither parent is a danger to the child, both parents are presumed to play a role in that child’s life. This is because most children grow up to be better adjusted and ready for adulthood when they have two parents in their lives. Such an arrangement is generally created even if the parents don’t get along or would rather have custody or other rights to themselves. A judge or other neutral party may work with the parents to help them overcome their own problems for the sake of being good role models for their children. For the most part, families benefit from a smoother legal process.
If you are looking for a child custody lawyer in Jenkintown, contact our office by calling (215)-886-1266 or by filling out the form on our website. We’re prepared to help you through the process of determining custody rights and visitation schedules.