Going through the family courts for a divorce means that you will need to learn multiple new terms and their specific definitions. From the equitable distribution of your property to the dissipation of your assets, jargon abounds. The better you understand it, the easier it will be for you to push for the results you want.
On the surface, custody is arguably one of the more straightforward concepts in a divorce. Almost everyone knows that the courts will have to figure out how you and your ex split up custody of your children. What you may not realize is that there are multiple forms of custody that the courts may refer to during divorce hearings and in your custody order.
1) Physical custody
Physical custody means having personal responsibility for the physical location and immediate needs of a child. When you have physical custody, the child stays with you. You provide their clothing, food and other basic needs. If your child falls sick at school when you have physical custody, it will be your responsibility to leave work and go pick them up from class. Physical custody is often what parents focus on the most during divorce proceedings.
2) Legal custody
Legal custody does not require that a parent be in close proximity to a child to exert it. Essentially, legal custody is the authority to make decisions on behalf of your child. It is legal custody that allows you access to medical records and the right to make decisions about treatment. Legal custody is why you have to sign forms when your child goes on a field trip for school. Until your child becomes an adult, the person with legal custody is the one with the right to make all of the major decisions.
3) Sole and joint custody
The ideas of sole and joint custody are better known than the differentiation between physical and legal custody. The average person understands that joint custody involves parents sharing parenting time and that sole custody means the one parent has all of the parenting time or decision-making authority.
Judges often prefer joint solutions, although they may order joint physical custody and sole legal custody in some cases. Knowing the right terms will help you understand court hearings and will also make it easier for you to advocate for the outcome you think is best for your family during divorce.