Child Custody: Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

Child custody impacts time with kids, child support payments, and parental decision-making rights, so it’s no wonder that many parents see child custody as the most important part of their divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, many parents going through the divorce process are completely unaware of the differences between physical and legal custody. Thankfully, the O’Malley Law Office is here to explain the individual aspects of each custody type.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is undoubtedly more important than physical custody, as securing sole or joint legal custody typically means you have sole or joint physical custody as well. Legal custody means having the obligation and the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child in question.

Parents with legal custody make decisions and choices about their children’s:

  • School or childcare (Should the child be enrolled in public or private school?);
  • Religious activities or institutions (Will the child go to church, and if so, where?);
  • Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs (Does the child need counseling, and if so, with whom?);
  • Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and other health professionals, except in emergencies (Does the child need to go to the dentist, and if so, with whom?);
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities (Will the child play sports or go to camps, and if so, which ones?);
  • Travel (Will the child travel places, and if so, where?);
  • Residence (Will the child live in this house or another house?).

If a parent has sole legal custody, then he or she can decide all the above without the input of the child’s other parent. If parents share legal custody of a child, then they both have the right to make decisions about these aspects of a child’s life, and they don’t have to agree on every decision.

If both parents have legal custody of a child, communication is key to avoiding problems and going back to court. However, if your child’s other parent is making legal decisions that you believe aren’t in the best interests of your child, talking an experienced family law attorney can help you determine if you need to go to court.

Physical Custody

Having physical custody of a child is vastly different from having legal custody of a child. When a parent has physical custody of a child, it means he or she has the obligation and right to care for a child’s life regularly.

If a parent has sole or primary custody, it means his or her child lives at the house for most of the time, and that the other parent likely follows a visitation schedule. If the parents share physical custody of a child, then the child lives with both parents for a predetermined amount of time.

Are you Fighting for Custody? We Can Help

O’Malley Law Office is here to help parents who want legal and physical custody of their children. With decades of experience, our attorneys know how to represent parents regardless of the circumstances surrounding their divorce. We have helped hundreds of clients through the divorce process, and we are ready to help you with your case.

Ready for representation for your custody case? Call (570) 391-0866  now to set up a consultation!