There are those who believe that child custody is a singular term that essentially defines who gets to be a child’s parent after a divorce. There are also those who will say that you have custody only when a child lives with you and visitation when you see your child only at intervals.
It is true that you can have custody or visitation options, but this actually just describes two types of physical custody. The actual two main divisions for child custody as a whole are physical and legal. It’s important to know how these are different and what they will mean as they are assigned during the divorce.
Legal custody has nothing to do with where your child lives, but it is about who gets to make decisions for your child. When that child is a minor, parents get to make choices like where they go to school or which doctor they visit. Legal custody means that you have a right to make these decisions. Shared legal custody means that you and your ex have to work together to make them, and neither person can violate the other’s rights.
Physical custody, as you probably guessed, is what most people think of as child custody. It defines where the child is going to live and which parent is going to live with them. Someone who doesn’t get full-time physical custody at their home may get visitation rights, as noted above.
If you’re getting divorced and working your way through this process, be sure you know about all of your legal options. You may also want to consider these options if you and your ex are in a dispute over any of these custody issues.