Most parents are aware that if they decide to divorce and have children, they will need to make child custody arrangements. The court will review the best interests of the child when deciding custody. It will consider the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s involvement with school, their community and the child’s social connections.
There are two types of custody that parents may not be familiar with. These are called legal and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to the parents’ ability to make important decisions for their child. These include decisions about education, religion and healthcare, for example. The court may grant sole or joint legal custody.
Joint legal custody means that both parents share decision-making responsibilities. This requires both parents to cooperate and positively communicate with each other. If the court grants sole custody, it means that only one parent can make decisions for the child.
The court will also decide physical custody, which means where the child lives and the parents’ responsibility for the child’s everyday care. If the court orders joint physical custody, the child will spend time with both parents as equally as possible. For example, the parents may divide up the weekdays, or alternate weeks or holidays with the children.
With sole custody, the child lives with one parent primarily, but the other parent may be given visitation rights.
Parents should be prepared to work together to create a parenting plan. This plan will outline how they will manage their legal and physical custody responsibilities.