Physical & Legal child Custody

What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?

What is it that the courts look at to make custody and parenting time decisions?

Child custody determinations occur in divorce, paternity, and custody proceedings. There are two types of custody that must be decided: Legal Custody and Physical Custody.

Physical custody is what most people think of when speaking about custody. The parent who is awarded physical custody is the parent with whom the children live and the one who makes the routine daily decisions for the children.

Determining who has physical custody is often emotionally difficult for parents since they are accustomed to seeing their children everyday.  It is important to remember that whatever parenting time schedule is ordered will result in each parent making sacrifices and that the best interests of your child should be the focus of the physical custody determination.

Parents can be awarded joint physical custody, meaning that the child splits time between two parents; joint physical custody does not necessarily mean that each parent has the child for 50% of the time. Further, the assignment of sole or joint physical custody does not necessarily dictate the amount of child support due from one parent to the other.

When is a child’s input considered in a child custody case?

Legal custody is the authority to make major decisions concerning your child and may be awarded to one or both parents. Major decisions include non-emergency medical issues, choice of school, religious upbringing, and consent to obtain a driver's license. There is a presumption within the law that legal custody will be granted jointly, save for when relationships have a history of domestic abuse or other compelling circumstances.

Due to the intricacies involved, mediation or other means of reaching amicable resolutions are often the preferable option for parents who want to personally tailor their child custody agreements to fit their children's needs.  Considering the monumental impact that child custody arrangements will have on family relationships and routines, parents often want to avoid leaving these matters up to the court.  Matt Ludt, of Atticus Family Law in Stillwater, Minnesota, is both an experienced custody attorney and a trained mediator.  He can work with you to craft a child custody arrangement that fits the needs of your family.