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Physical and legal custody of a child post-divorce

There is a lot that goes into raising a child. In addition to providing for their basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), parents are also responsible for the child’s health, safety, schooling and extracurricular activities, and emotional wellbeing.

When parents decide to get a divorce, it can be difficult to determine which responsibilities belong to each parent. The court’s child custody determination will address both legal and physical custody issues that arise during the divorce.

Legal custody

If a parent has legal custody of their child, that parent has the legal authority to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. If joint legal custody has been awarded, both parents share this decision-making authority and will both have the right to make decisions regarding the child’s schooling, extracurriculars, health, and religion.

Physical custody

Once a divorce is finalized, the child will likely be spending a certain amount of time with each parent separately. However, there is no guarantee the time will be split 50-50, even if the court awards joint physical custody. The court will consider the best interests of the child when making these custody determinations.

Generally, courts prefer to award joint legal and physical custody if at all possible, so that both parents can remain an integral part of the child’s life. However, when one parent lives far away from the other or is otherwise unable to care for the child, sole physical and legal custody may be the best possible option. A family law attorney can help navigate these issues and help come up with the arrangement that works best for you and your family.