Physical vs. Legal Custody

People frequently ask about the difference between Physical and Legal Custody.

Physical custody:
Physical custody refers to that parent or parents who has the physical responsibility for the care of the child. Joint physical custody” means that each of the parents shall have significant periods of physical custody, although parents can share joint custody even if the timeshares are disproportionate, such as an alternate weekend schedule for one parent and the other parent having the rest of the time.

Sole legal custody means that one parent clearly has the lions share of time, as well as usually responsibility. Oftentimes attorneys avoid the use of either sole or joint custody and use the term “primary physical custody” to designate the parent who has day-to day care of the child. California law does not have any designation known as primary physical custody, and this may cause problems under certain circumstances, such as in a move-away case.

Legal Custody
Legal Custody refers to the parent/s who will have the decision-making authority relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. Joint legal custody means that both parents have the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s health, education, welfare, religion, drivers license, etc. Sole legal custody means that one parent may make all of these decisions.

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