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What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

It can be hard for divorcing parents, or separated parents, to think about losing any time with their child. Sometimes, going through the child custody process can feel that way as it is a division of time that a child spends with one parent. However, it is usually in a child's best interest to spend time with both parents. Therefore, separated parents often must co-parent from separate households.

There are two different types of custody that may be discussed during the child custody process -- physical custody and legal custody. It is possible for parents to be assigned one, both or neither versions of custody depending on the family's situation. Legal custody differs from physical custody in that parents granted legal custody are given legal authority to make decisions about the child's education, health and upbringing.

Parents granted physical custody have been granted the right to have the child live with him or her. Physical custody is important to the child-parent relationship because it allows for the time that is so crucial between parent and child. This is often the biggest focus of parents seeking custody. However, legal custody is important as well since it given the parent the right to direct their child's life in the correct direction.

When parents are going through or thinking about approaching the child custody process, it is normal to have a lot of questions. Custody decisions are tailored specifically to family and child needs. No two child custody arrangements will be exactly alike.

Source: family.findlaw.com, "The Various Types of Child Custody," Accessed May 8, 2017

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Haller & Imbarlina, P.C.
20120 Route 19, Suite 208
Gigliotti Plaza
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

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