Legal and Physical Custody Differences

Many parents going through the divorce process may have many questions about Florida’s legal and physical custody laws.

Often, parents might find themselves confused about the difference between legal and physical custody. While both are forms of parental responsibility, they have very different meanings in terms of how each parent interacts with their child on a daily basis.

The Definition For Legal Custody

This refers to the rights and responsibilities of parents in making decisions about their child’s health, education and welfare. It includes choosing schools, doctors or other health care providers for your child; deciding on religious or moral instruction; and determining where your child will live.

Legal custody can be shared between parents or given to one parent. If both parents share it, they must make decisions together about their child’s future. If one parent has sole authority, that parent makes all of the important decisions without input from the other parent.

The Definition of Physical Custody

This definition refers to the right of a parent to have the child live with him or her. This means that the child lives in at least one parent’s home most of the time, although there are exceptions.

For example, if both parents agree on joint physical custody and their schedule allows it, then they can alternate weeks or months when they have physical custody of their child. However, if one parent has sole physical custody of their child, that parent makes all decisions. Especially about where your child will live and what school he or she attends.

A parent may be awarded sole physical custody if he or she is the most stable and reliable parent. You will need to show that you can consistently provide for your child’s needs, such as food and shelter. In some cases, both parents may have joint physical custody of their child. This means that both parents share legal responsibility for making decisions about where the child lives and what school he or she attends. As you can expect, this will complicate most decisions, especially with spouses that have difficulty communicating.

If you plan to be the sole holder of your child’s physical custody, you should also prove that you are capable of providing emotional support for your child by providing him or her with love and attention (or another method of emotional support).

Determining Your Divorce Situation

In a divorce, you will need to determine these laws in your state. Your state’s laws may allow you to seek sole physical custody if you are able to prove that your spouse is unfit or unwilling to care for your child. You can find out more about custody laws and your divorce by speaking with a family law attorney in your area.

Our expert team at Thompson Law can help you understand your rights and explain how the law will affect them. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping their clients achieve the best possible outcome for their divorce cases. If you have any questions about these laws or your divorce, contact us today.