Legal custody is the “decision making” custody. The parent or parents who have legal custody of a child have the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s care and upbringing, such as where the child will go to school, what religion the child will be raised in, what doctor(s) the child will see, and so on. Typically, it is not uncommon for parents to have joint legal custody. That means that both parents must work together to make these decisions, and one parent cannot unilaterally make the “big” decisions regarding a child.
The other type of custody is physical custody. This is the type of custody for where the child spends a majority of his or her time. If one parent has the child more than the other parent, then the parent who has the child most is considered to have primary physical custody. If the parents share about equal time with the child, then they are considered to have joint physical custody.
When parents initially file for custody of their children, they don’t always realize there are two types of custody. It is important to understand that there are two types of custody, so when parents are creating their parenting plan, they have an idea of how to structure that plan. There is no “one size fits all” custody and parenting plan. Each plan is unique and specific to the facts of every case. Parents should work together to come up with a custody and parenting plan that works for them and their children, based upon each child’s needs, wants, and circumstances.