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Legal custody vs. physical custody: key points in family law

| Feb 4, 2021 | Child Custody

In a New York divorce, children can frequently get caught in the middle. For couples that are moving forward with the end of a marriage, the relationship may be contentious with many disputes coming to the forefront. Children are vulnerable in this situation and it is important to think about their best interests. That is what the court will do when coming to a custody determination. As the case moves forward, parents should be cognizant of the law and how it will impact their case. This is true even if they are on relatively amicable terms and simply want to part ways. In this circumstance, negotiation might be a better option.

Understanding the aspects of child custody

In New York, there is legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody grants that parent the right to make the decisions on the child’s behalf. That means the parent can choose what school the child attends, decide on religious upbringing, and oversee decisions on medical treatment. In some cases, the judge might order the parents to share custody through joint legal custody. Both will then make the decisions for the child.

Residential circumstances are irrelevant if there is joint legal custody – the decisions will need to be made together to adhere to the agreement. For parents who are given sole legal custody, there does not need to be consultation with the other parent for any major decision. The parent with sole legal custody has the right to do as he or she sees fit.

Physical custody means the parent who has the child at the specific moment is responsible for and supervises the child. Some cases result in a judge deciding to grant joint physical custody where the parents share the child 50-50. With sole physical custody, one parent will have the child residentially more than half the time. That parent is the custodial parent. The other parent is the noncustodial parent.

Considering all the options with child custody and family law

There is no doubt that divorce is a challenge, especially for children. It is vital for parents to protect their kids as much as possible, but they will undoubtedly want to spend as much time with them too. This can lead to disputes over child custody. Understanding the various alternatives for custody and how to create a workable plan is a good start. Whether the parties are flexible and can negotiate or need to go to court to settle the matter, understanding legal custody and physical custody is imperative. Before moving forward, it is beneficial to have legal assistance.