What's the difference between legal and physical custody?

Burnsville, MN Family Law Attorney, Merlyn Meinerts discusses the difference between legal and physical custody.

Contact Merlyn Meinerts

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (952) 736-1843


Legal custody relates to making major legal decisions about the children, and that falls into categories like medical and dental care, education, religious training. I treat those as kind of the macro or the big picture issues with respect to children. Under Minnesota law, it’s presumed that every parent has joint legal custody. Physical custody has to do with how parenting time is structured and the children’s residence is structured. 

With the development of recent law, I take the position that custody labels matter very, very little anymore. It doesn’t have anything to do with child support as it used to. It doesn’t have to do with things like moving out of state and those types of things as it used to. So a lot of time and energy is spent fighting over custody labels where the real issue relates to how parenting time is allocated.