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The difference between legal and physical custody

Divorcing couples in Arizona who will be entering into co-parenting agreements should be aware of two important terms: legal custody and physical custody. These two terms will play a big role in the way a child is raised, and they can be granted to both parents or to just one parent.

What is physical custody?

Most people know that physical custody is where the child, or children, will live and can determine issues such as where the child will attend school. Physical custody can be granted to one or both parents. If just one parent is granted physical custody, the other parent can still be granted visitation rights to the children.

Physical child custody can also affect the amount of child support owed by the non-custodial parent. If just one parent is granted physical custody, the non-custodial parent will likely pay more than if joint physical custody were granted.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody involves all major and long-term decision responsibilities involving the child’s welfare. It can also be granted to one or both parents. Legal custody involves making decisions about health care, religious education, school choices, cultural education and extracurricular activities for the children.

Most often, joint legal custody is granted to both parents. This means that they must consider the wishes or requests of each other before making any major decisions on behalf of the children.

Sole legal custody is usually granted when one parent is deemed “unfit.” This can be defined as a parent having a history of drug abuse, child neglect or domestic violence.

Finding compassionate assistance

A family law attorney may be a great asset in helping you understand the difference between physical and legal custody. Divorce is a stressful time, but being informed about your options can help reduce the anxiety.