What Is the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

When you and your spouse go through a legal separation or a divorce, child custody is a central matter if you share one or more minor children. In the state of New York, a judge usually aims for a child to maintain solid relationships with both parents regardless of the division of custody. When evaluating anything pertaining to a minor child’s situation, a judge considers the child’s best interest to ensure that any ruling supports the child’s physical, mental, emotional, social, and educational well-being.

Another key element that affects your parenting plan is the difference between physical and legal custody. Both play an important role in your child’s life after the legal separation or divorce. These two types of custody can be “sole” or “shared” depending on a family’s specific situation. The physical and legal custody arrangements do not have to match either.

Physical Custody: Where Your Child Primarily Resides

Physical custody concerns where your child primarily resides, and a custodial parent provides daily care and supervision to the minor child. If you and your spouse have joint physical custody, your child equally divides their time between both your homes. If a parent has sole physical custody, the child spends more than half of their time living with their custodial parent.

The non-custodial parent has visitation rights and regular communication with the child to maintain a relationship unless the non-custodial parent’s presence in the child’s life would cause distress and trauma. For example, if the non-custodial parent has a history of abuse, a judge may either suggest supervised visits or no visits at all.

Legal Custody: Major Decisions Concerning Your Child

Legal custody, also known as decision-making custody, determines parental responsibility when it comes to major decisions regarding your minor child.

Major decision-making can affect:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Religion and spirituality

If parents share legal custody, they need to discuss any important decision about this type of situation and reach an agreement. Your parenting plan may contain provisions for conflict resolution to minimize future issues.

If a parent has sole legal custody, they may nevertheless need to communicate with the other parent to ensure that everyone is up to date with those major decisions. Co-parents may also have sole custody on specific matters while the other has authority over another aspect of their child’s life.

When Can You Modify Child Custody Court Orders?

Life happens and your circumstances can change in a way that affects your current child custody court orders. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you may need to address the new situation and make sure that both your co-parent and the judge agree with your petition.

Parental relocation is a common cause for child custody modification although other situations such as remarriage or even a change in employment or health may impact your current child custody and visitation arrangements.

Trust Arnel Law Firm with Your Child Custody Case in New York

At Arnel Law Firm, our family law attorneys have extensive experience in helping families through challenging times and life transitions. We can support you during out-of-court negotiations, court hearings, or the litigation process depending on what fits your specific case. Our team is dedicated to protecting your and your child’s rights and future. If you have a child with a disability, we also understand how it can impact your custody and visitation arrangements and we can help you build a strong case to get a court ruling that benefits your child.

Do you need a compassionate family law attorney for your child custody case in Brooklyn? Call Arnel Law Firm today at (718) 550-3024 or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation.