If you say that you want to get custody of your child, you may assume that this general term covers everything: You want your child to live with you, you want to make decisions for them and you want to be in control as a parent. You may share this right with your ex, but you want to be included.
The truth, though, is that there are actually two types of custody. They are:
- Physical custody: This governs the child’s living situation. Shared physical custody may mean that your child lives with you for one week and then your ex for the next week, for instance. Sole physical custody could mean they live with you 100% of the time, though your ex may have a right to visit.
- Legal custody: This governs the decisions that are made on the child’s behalf. If you share this custody, you have to work together to make those choices; if you have sole custody, you get to make decisions regardless of what your ex wants. Examples of these choices include where to go to school, what doctor to see, whether or not to get vaccines, etc.
The court can split these up in different ways. It’s common for joint custody to mean shared physical and legal custody, for instance, where both parents are equally involved. But it does not have to be this way. The court could decide that your ex should get a say in important decisions but that it would be better for your child to live with you all the time. You could wind up with shared legal custody and sole physical custody.
As you move through this complex process, it’s wise to work with experienced legal professionals who can guide the way.