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Difference between physical and legal custody explained

by | Feb 18, 2016 | Child Custody, Firm News |

When a couple divorces or needs to set up a legal framework to determine who is responsible for their children after they part ways, a child custody arrangement is usually the first step. This arrangement is made to determine who has the children and when, as well as who makes the important decisions in the children’s lives. These are known respectively as physical and legal custody. Both parents are often given the chance to share these responsibilities, although many choose to create arrangements to fit their individual needs.

According to the American Bar Association, the term physical custody involves how much time children spend with each of their parents. In Florida, this is known as the time-share arrangement. It can be varied and flexible depending on a couple’s preference and individual situations. The court usually prefers to have parents share physical custody as equally as possible so the children have an equal amount of time with each parent, if the situation allows. This can take the form of alternating weeks, two-day periods, or even alternate months. It should be noted however, that physical custody is more than just a schedule. When parents have physical custody of minor children, they are responsible for maintaining a home in which their kids can safely live. They are also responsible for providing for all of their other physical necessities, such as food, clothing and access to medical care.

Legal custody refers to which parent has the right to make religious, medical, educational and disciplinary decisions on a child’s behalf. According to the Florida Statutes, legal custody can also be shared between both parents, if it is what they agree in their parenting plan or what is ordered by the court. In this situation, the arrangement is known as shared parental responsibility, and both parents must have equal involvement in making the important decisions that will affect their child’s life.