Determining which particular kind of custody is ideal to pursue in a divorce or legal separation involving children can be a complex decision in an already difficult situation. Understanding the legal differences between obtaining legal and physical custody can help you pursue the best option for you and your children.
In general, courts prefer to keep both parents involved in decision-making for children. However, depending the situation, a court may choose to grant one parent or the other full legal or physical custody if the court believes this is truly in the best interest of the children. Joint custody may be undesirable to the court if one parent is demonstrated to be abusive or prone to unsafe behavior in the presence of children, or if one parent is consistently absent from the life of the children.
Being granted full legal custody means that the courts have given one parent the right to make determinations about many life decisions for the children in a divorce. This generally includes where and how to school children, what kind of medical care the children receive, or things like the diet and extracurricular activities of children.
Physical custody involves where children will live on an ongoing basis. A parent who has been been granted full physical custody of children has the ability to move the children away from the other parent. In cases like this, the non-custodial parent faces the burden of proving that such a move is demonstrably harmful to the children in order to keep the custodial parent from moving.
Divorce is one of the most disruptive experiences a parent can go through, and can be quite hard on children who are caught in the middle. A qualified, experienced legal professional can help protect the rights of both parents and children, and ensure that this trying season is walked through as respectfully as possible on the way to making a fresh start.
Source: www.Divorcenet.com, "Legal and Physical Custody of Children," Emily Doskow, accessed July 01, 2016