Child Custody includes two different kinds of custody:  Legal Child Custody and Physical Child Custody.  Let’s start with the definition of each:

Legal custody is the decision-making process about the children’s health, education, and welfare.

Physical custody is where the children are going to live. The courts require that the parents select “joint” or “sole” physical custody. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean equal or 50/50 parenting time. It does mean that both parents have a substantial amount of time with the child.

The family court requires a determination of Legal Custody and Physical Custody in the court ordered parent plan or child custody agreement.  Family courts encourage parents to have joint legal custody and share in the decision-making process. When parents can share the decision making process of how to care for the medical decisions of their children and where their children will attend school it is more likely that they will be able to coparent and raise the children cooperatively. In rare cases when parents are unable to cooperate or one parent is unfit to make decisions regarding the children, the court will award sole legal custody to the parent who is the primary caretaker or parent who is best suited to make the legal custody decisions for the children.

Physical custody is different.  There are many parents who choose a parent plan where one parent is going to be the primary care taker and have the children the greater percentage of time.  When this is the case this parent will have sole physical custody.   If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent will have parenting time outlined in the specified custody order or agreement.  The physical child custody agreement may also be joint physical custody when both parents are sharing the children’s time on a continuous frequently basis. To learn more about the best custody program for you and your children contact Carol Delzer Mediator-Attorney at Family Law Center for a mediation consultation.