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What is different about physical and legal custody?

When deciding to separate from your spouse, you both may have some questions. For divorcing couples who have children, there are a few different ways that child custody can be handled. As always, it is best to keep the best interests of the child in mind when making this decision. There are a few different types of child custody that divorcing couples should be aware of.

The most widely known type of child custody is called physical custody. This occurs when a parent has been granted the authority to have the child live with him or her. It is possible for both parents to have physical custody if the child spends significant time with both. Occasionally, a parent is granted sole physical custody which awards one parent with total physical custody.

Another important type of child custody is called legal custody. When a parent has legal custody of a child, it grants them the authority to make decisions about the child's health, education and upbringing. In some ways, these decisions are almost more important than physical custody. It is common to see joint legal custody arrangements between divorced parents. These agreements force the divorced couple to make decisions together about the child.

It is always recommended that divorcing couples consider the best interests of the child during any separation. This ensures the best outcome for the child or children involved. Sole custody is also a type of custody that gives all physical and legal custody to one parent only. Every child and family is different and should consider all types of custody during the divorce.

Source: findlaw.com, "The Various Types of Child Custody," accessed on Dec. 14, 2014

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