What is the difference between legal custody and physical custody?
Stillwater family law attorney, Matt Ludt, distinguishes custody labels.
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So, in the late ’70s the legislature made the definitions for the two. Before there used to just be custody, and it was just one packet. And now we have legal custody, which has got a great definition. It’s the decision making regarding the significant issues of the child, namely religious upbringing, medical treatment and schooling – wonderful, easy decision. Most times it’s granted jointly between the parties, because they both deserve to participate in those decisions.
They also created a definition for physical custody, which is horrible. It’s the routine care and control of the minor child. The reason it’s horrible is that if it’s – if you’ve got physical custody but it’s not your weekend with the children, are you still gonna be over at your ex’s home making sure that they brush their teeth, eat their vegetables and go to bed on time, because that’s the routine, daily care and control of a child. Obviously, doesn’t apply. That’s why a lot of times in family law we now look at setting a parenting time schedule that covers weekdays, weekends, holidays, school breaks, summertime, vacation, the whole gamut, so the whole year is addressed for the years to come so that we don’t have to worry about this routine, daily care and control.
And we also consider naming one household to be primary residence, which is a much more intuitive definition.