When discussing custody of your child during a divorce, make sure you know exactly what it is you’re agreeing to. Contrary to popular opinion, all custody is not the same. There are actually two different types to consider: Physical and legal custody.
The names already imply what they do for you, but let’s break them down a bit farther. Physical custody tells you where your child will live. This can be split between the parents — the child lives with Mom for four days and then Dad for three days, for instance — or one parent can have custody and the other can visit. In some cases, couples use birdnesting, which is when the children always stay in the same home, and the parents rotate in and out.
Legal custody, on the other hand, deals with important decisions that children cannot make for themselves. Examples could be which doctor the child will use, what school they will enroll in, what religion they’ll follow and things of this nature.
It is possible for parents to get custody rights in one area and not the other. For instance, your spouse’s living situation may be unstable, keeping them from getting physical custody, but they could still have a say in the major decisions that you make for the child.
Understanding your rights in both areas is very important. As a parent, you want what is best for your child and you need to know exactly how you’ll be involved. It may help to work with an experienced legal team so that they can help to guide you through this process.