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What's the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

If you’re currently dealing with a child custody case, you know how complicated and difficult these cases can be. Regardless of your relationship with your ex-spouse, it can take a lot of work to prevent a minor disagreement from spiraling into a painful child custody battle – which could affect your child’s emotional wellbeing in the process. Of course, most of these difficult decisions center on the concepts of physical and legal custody, which are viewed as two separate things in California.

At Myers Family Law, we can truly say that we specialize in the realm of child custody, as we have a Certified Family Law Specialist and Certified Mediator working on our staff. With more than 25 years of experience in family law cases ranging from the straightforward to the complex, our skilled Granite Bay child custody lawyers can be with you every step of the way.

In this post, we’ll help you understand the differences between physical and legal custody, and what it could mean for your case.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

Gone are the days in which courts would automatically award sole or even primary custody to the mother. In modern family law courts, the judge will attempt to make a fair decision based on two factors: Where the child should live, and who should be allowed to make decisions for the child’s life.

The former – where the child physically lives and stays – is called physical custody. Legal custody, on the other hand, allows you to make day-to-day decisions. When you have legal custody, you have a voice on everything, from minor matters like playdates to more serious matters like religious observance.

How Will the Judge Split Physical and Legal Custody?

In most cases, the judge will do everything in his or her power to avoid granting sole physical and sole legal custody together, as this combination can present a strain on most families. If one spouse shows a clear history of domestic violence, child abuse, or criminal activity, then the judge may choose to go with this route, as the child’s welfare and interests are always the top priority.

However, for the vast majority of couples, the judge will award joint legal custody, and spend more time trying to determine how physical custody will be divided. Even if the judge decides on sole physical custody for one parent, the non-custodial parent will be able to visit and care for their child, based on a pre-determined parenting time plan. If both parents have a stable permanent residence with the ability to care for a child, physical custody could be shared equally throughout the year.

At Myers Family Law, our experienced family lawyers are committed to helping your family find the best arrangement for physical child custody, or helping you seeking sole custody in cases of abuse. As mediators offering compassionate counsel, we can stand by your side and work towards the best possible outcome.

Ready to start discussing your child custody arrangements? Call us at (916) 634-0067 for a 30-minute, low-cost consultation in Granite Bay and surrounding areas.

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