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Physical Custody Vs. Legal Custody What Do They Mean?

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody What do They Mean? David L. Duff of Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. posted in Family Law on Friday, May 31, 2019.

Physical custody” of a child means, very simply: Where does the child live? “Legal custody” means: Which parent has decision-making authority for the child? Clearly, there are a multitude of day-to-day decisions affecting a child’s life that are made, as a matter of course, by the parent having physical custody. Such decisions may run the gauntlet from “When is bedtime?”  “Can homework wait until after dinner?”  to “Who are acceptable playmates?” Quite often, however, decisions that hold more significance to your child’s life will arise. These are the decisions that fall under the ambit of “legal custody”.

The concept of joint legal custody is to require that both parents be included in making those significant decisions that will affect their child. Examples of such significant decisions would include, but certainly are not limited to, the following:

  • Registration for sporting activities, or other extra-curricular activities;
  • Being evaluated by a mental-health therapist;
  • Attending a particular summer camp;
  • Issues involving the child’s education or health;
  • Issues involving the child’s religious exposure and participation.

“Joint legal custody” requires that, before one parent can unilaterally make such significant decisions for a child, the other parent must be consulted and allowed to have input on the issue. The goal, of course, is for both parents to arrive at a unified decision and course of action. Sometimes it works – often it does not.

The success of “joint legal custody” depends upon both parents being able to maturely discuss a particular issue; to have some measure of respect for each other’s position; and, to be willing to compromise for the best interest of their child. The cooperation of both parents is absolutely required; and, unfortunately, this is often not the case, which is why so many custody disputes end up in court.

If you have questions concerning this concept of “joint legal custody”, call an attorney at Duff & Kronfeld (703) 591-7475, for a complimentary, 30-minute telephone consultation.

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