Understanding Your Custody Order


Custody and visitation are often the most contentious issues for divorce and paternity cases. In fact, many parents are unable to reach an agreement and need the Court to create an order. However, understanding a custody order, whether created by the parents or ordered by the Court, can be difficult.

To better understand your order, we’re breaking down the different types of custody, legal custody, and physical custody.

Legal Custody
Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions regarding minor children, including their health, education, and welfare. Examples include which schools the children will attend, the children’s medical care, their participation in religious activities, and more.

Options for legal custody are either sole or joint. A parent who has sole legal custody can make decisions for the minor children by themselves, including where the child will live. Joint legal custody is when both parents share the responsibility in deciding the minor children’s care. Therefore, it is in the children’s and parent’s best interest to work together and communicate.

Physical Custody
Physical custody refers to which parent the children live with. Similar to legal custody, physical custody can be either sole or joint.

Sole physical custody is when the children reside with one parent, and the other parent has visitation, subject to an agreement or Court order. Visitation agreements can include weekly dinners, weekend visits, or other arrangements.

Joint physical custody, when the children live with both parents, is commonly reflected in 50/50 custody arrangements, where the children spend equal time with either parent. However, 50/50 is not the only option. Joint physical custody agreements can take into consideration the parents’ work schedules as well as children’s school and extra-curricular activities.

If you need assistance understanding or creating a custody agreement, an experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process and protect your time with your children.

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