Defining "Legal Custody" vs. "Physical Custody"

A child lying in bed while his father reads him a bedtime story.

Understanding "Legal Custody"

Definition of Legal Custody

Legal custody, in its simplest terms, refers to the authority and responsibility a parent has in making significant decisions concerning their child's upbringing. These decisions often encompass aspects like education, healthcare, religion, and general welfare. Being granted legal custody means you have a say in these pivotal areas of your child's life. However, it's crucial to note that legal custody can be either sole, where one parent has exclusive decision-making rights, or joint, where both parents share this responsibility.

Rights and Responsibilities of Legal Custody

Parents with legal custody can decide about their child's upbringing. These decisions can range from the type of education the child receives to the religious practices they follow to the medical care they receive. However, these rights also come with responsibilities. Parents must make these decisions in the best interest of the child, considering their needs, safety, and overall well-being. It's not about what's convenient or preferable for the parent but what will best serve the child's development and happiness.

Factors Influencing Legal Custody Decisions

When determining legal custody, courts in Calabasas, CA, consider several factors. These may include the child's age, health, emotional ties with both parents, the parents' ability to provide a stable environment, and any history of family violence or substance abuse. The child's wishes may also be considered, depending on their age and maturity. The court's primary goal is to ensure the child's best interests are served.

Understanding "Physical Custody"

Definition of Physical Custody

Physical custody, on the other hand, refers to where the child will live post-divorce or separation. The parent with whom the child resides has physical custody. Like legal custody, physical custody can be sole or joint. In sole physical custody, the child lives with one parent, usually with visitation rights for the other. In joint physical custody, the child spends significant time living with both parents, although the time split doesn't necessarily have to be 50/50.

Rights and Responsibilities of Physical Custody

Physical custody grants a parent the right to have the child live with them. This right comes with the responsibility to provide for the child's daily needs, including food, shelter, clothing, and other basic necessities. It also involves the day-to-day care of the child, like helping with homework, nurturing emotional well-being, and facilitating social activities. The parent with physical custody is also responsible for maintaining a stable, loving environment where the child feels safe and secure.

Factors Influencing Physical Custody Decisions

Similar to legal custody, the court's primary concern when determining physical custody is the child's best interests. Factors considered may include the child's age, health, emotional ties with both parents, the parents' physical and mental health, and the child's established living pattern. The court may also consider the geographical proximity of the parents' residences in Calabasas, CA, and the parents' ability to cooperate and communicate effectively about the child.

Differences between "Legal Custody" and "Physical Custody"

Key Differences in Rights and Responsibilities

While both legal and physical custody involve rights and responsibilities towards the child, the key difference lies in the nature of these rights and responsibilities. Legal custody pertains to the authority to make significant decisions about the child's upbringing, while physical custody involves the child's living arrangements and the responsibility for their daily care and needs. It's possible for one parent to have sole legal custody while sharing physical custody, or vice versa, depending on the circumstances.

Impact on Child's Living Arrangements

The type of custody also significantly impacts the child's living arrangements. In a joint physical custody situation, the child splits time living with both parents. This could be a week-on, week-off arrangement or any other schedule that works for the family and serves the child's best interests. In contrast, legal custody doesn't directly affect where the child lives, but it does influence the child's life regarding the major decisions made about their upbringing.

Influence on Decision-Making for the Child

Another key difference between legal and physical custody lies in decision-making. Legal custody determines who makes major decisions about the child's life, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Physical custody, however, doesn't grant any special decision-making authority. Instead, it focuses on the child's residence and day-to-day care. Both types of custody require parents to act in the child's best interests, but they do so in different ways.

If you're navigating a divorce or separation and need help understanding legal and physical custody, Feinberg & Waller, APC can help. Our experienced family law attorneys in Calabasas, CA, can guide you through the complexities of custody laws and help you make informed decisions that serve your child's best interests. Contact Feinberg & Waller, APC today to learn more about our services.

Related Posts
  • Child Custody Relocation Laws: What You Need to Know Before Moving Within or From California Read More
  • New Technology for Sobriety Testing and Child Custody Cases Read More
  • Surviving a Separated Holiday Season Read More

Schedule a Divorce & Family Law Consultation

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Filling out this form does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.