When facing child custody issues, there are some basic terms that can be very confusing for parents and loved ones.
Physical vs Legal Custody
Physical custody is who the child will live with. Legal custody is who has the right to make decisions about important aspects of the child’s upbringing including medical care, education, and religious or cultural involvement.
Joint or Sole Custody
In most cases, parents will be awarded joint legal custody, meaning that both parents participate in making major decisions for their children.
In joint physical custody, the child’s time is split evenly between both parents, and it can be very impractical and disruptive for the child. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent, but it doesn’t mean they don’t spend time with the other parent. When it comes to physical custody, joint custody has become less common with courts more often granting sole physical custody with generous visitation time for the non-custodial parent.
Best Interests of the Child
When determining custody and visitation issues, the court puts the best interests of the child above all else. The standards that the courts in your state use to determine the best interests of the child may not be in line with what you personally feel is in the best interests of your child.
When determining the best interests of the child, one of the key factors that the courts consider is who has been the child’s primary caretaker thus far. It refers to actual hands-on care of the child, not who pays for the child’s needs.