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Don’t confuse the different kinds of child custody

Many parents don't know that there are actually two kinds of child custody: (1) physical custody and (2) legal custody. As such, when an offer for "joint custody" is made, they won't understand what that offer entails until they determine the type of joint custody the offer includes.

Here is the difference between joint and physical child custody:

What does joint physical custody look like?

Physical custody refers to where the child lives. If you have joint physical custody of your child, it means that your child will live with you part of the time and with your co-parent part of the time.

As you may know from speaking with your friends, these kinds of arrangements are a lot more common now than they were when you were a child. Courts have begun to see joint physical custody arrangements as highly beneficial to the welfare of the children. In fact, they largely agree that any negatives that come from having two homes are made up for by the fact that the children can spend as much time as possible with both of their parents.

What does joint legal custody look like?

Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make decisions for his or her child. Part of being a parent involves making vital life decisions for your children pertaining to discipline, schooling, medical care, sporting activities, artistic pursuits, religious training and more.

When parents share joint legal custody, they have to both come to an agreement regarding these issues. For example, one parent feels the child should go Catholic school and the other parent prefers that the child go to public school, the parents with joint legal custody will need to arrive at a mutual agreement before the matter is resolved.

If the other parent and his or her lawyer offer you "joint custody" to settle your child custody case, make sure you determine exactly what category of custody you'll be sharing, and what the reality of it will look like.

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