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Legal vs. Physical Custody

By Henry F. Lewis on November 19, 2018

Parent with childFamily law attorneys help clients negotiate settlements regarding family relations and domestic issues. Family law attorneys most frequently handle the legal division of assets during a divorce proceeding. However, family law attorneys also play a vital role in handling child custody issues.

Whether an unmarried couple has a child, or a married couple with a child or children chooses to divorce, there are legal custody matters that will need to be worked out. When most people hear the term child custody, they immediately think of which parent the child will live with.

However, custody matters extend beyond the location where the child will reside. The attorneys at Gardner & Lewis, LLP explain the differences regarding legal vs. physical custody to our Oakland, CA clients so they can reach a custody agreement that is most beneficial for all involved parties.

What Is Physical Custody?

Physical custody refers to where a child will live. If parents have sole physical custody, it means that the child will live with them at all times. If parents share physical custody, it means that the child will live with each parent for a certain portion of their time.

It is important to note that one parent having sole physical custody does not necessarily mean that the other parent will never spend time with the child. A parent without physical custody can still have ample visitation rights.

What Is Legal Custody?

Legal custody refers to who will make important life choices for the child. Issues that may be decided by a parent with legal custody of a child include where the child will go to school, what type of religion the child is taught, what kind of medical care will be given to the child, and what activities the child will be allowed to participate in.

As with physical custody, legal custody can be shared or assigned solely to one parent. If parents share legal custody of a child, they will need to come to an agreement about what choices and services are most beneficial to the child.

Are Physical and Legal Custody Always the Same?

Physical and legal custody are two separate matters and it is common for the two types of custody to be set up differently. In most cases, the court would prefer parents to share physical custody of the child.

This may not always equate to a 50/50 split, but the court understands that it is beneficial for a child to spend as much time as possible with each parent. Situations where it may not be reasonable for parents to share physical custody include those where one parent lives in another state, or far enough away that the child could not maintain his or her schedule while traveling back and forth between each parent’s house.

Even if parents do not share physical custody, the court may assign joint legal custody. The court generally prefers that parents make joint decisions about how the child will be raised and cared for, even if one parent lives too far away to share physical custody.

Situations in which the court may not assign joint legal custody include those where one parent is abusive or neglectful, or one where a child does not spend a significant amount of time with one parent.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are going through a divorce and have questions regarding child custody, the family law attorneys at Gardner & Lewis, LLP are here to help. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to learn more about legal and physical custody. Call (510) 451-4822 to set up a meeting at your earliest convenience.

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The needs of your family are always at the forefront of our legal services. Whether through litigation or mediation, we believe that reaching a fair, efficient solution with minimal negative impact to your family is of the utmost importance. Henry F. Lewis

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Oakland Office

1939 Harrison St
Ste 210
Oakland, CA 94612

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Oakland Office

1939 Harrison St
Ste 210
Oakland, CA 94612

Open Today 9:00am - 5:00pm

More Info Directions (510) 451-4822