Child custody is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and every case is unique. Plus, custody doesn’t just refer to where a child lives or which parent they’re with, as many people assume.
There are actually two different sides to most custody cases: Physical custody and legal custody. You need to know how these are different and how they get divided.
Legal custody refers to your ability as a parent to make decisions on your child’s behalf. You may decide where your child is going to go to school or who they’re going to see when they need to go to the doctor. These are decisions that parents have the ability to make, and divorced parents have to decide how those rights will be divided. Generally, both parents have a right to legal custody, so they may have to work together to make some of the decisions, rather than just doing so on their own.
As you can imagine, physical custody refers to where the child lives. Again, this is what most people think of, and it is very important. But you also want to know that someone can have physical custody and not legal custody, or vice versa. For instance, both parents may be allowed to make medical decisions, even though the children generally only live with one parent and see the other on the weekends.
These are just two of the issues that you’re going to have to sort through as a parent who is getting a divorce. Be sure you are aware of all of your parental rights and your legal options at this time.