What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

Legal custody refers to the right to make legal decisions for a child and have access to the child’s medical and school information. Medical care, education and religion are the major legal decisions parents have to discuss. If a parent is granted sole legal custody, that parent will make all of the decisions for the child without input from the other parent. If the parents are granted joint legal custody, the parents cannot make unilateral legal decisions for the child. They must discuss the legal issues before make decisions.

Physical custody refers to where the child resides. If a parent is granted primary physical custody, that means the child resides in that parent’s home at least 255 nights a year and spends the remaining nights with the other parent. If the parents are granted the joint physical custody, the child will share time between each parent’s home throughout the year. The time that is spent between home can vary from 111 overnights to 182 overnights per year.

Written by Jaime Topham