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Legal custody versus physical custody: What's the difference?

As a California parent, you may be concerned about how your decision to end your marriage could impact your children. This is a normal concern, but you are not powerless to do anything about it. In fact, with a full understanding of your parental rights and experienced guidance, you can draft a custody plan that helps your children have stability and security during this difficult time.

In your effort to minimize the impact that your divorce will have on your children, you may be wondering the best way to approach the difficult issue of child support. One of the most beneficial things you can do is to learn more about your parental rights and the types of child custody.

What does custody have to do with your rights?

There are two types of child custody that you may wish to consider as you work toward a beneficial child custody arrangement, physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody refers to anything pertaining to the following:

  • Education preferences and school choice
  • Religious upbringing
  • Medical care and health care decisions
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Special decisions and other matters

Legal custody refers to the parent's right to make important decisions on behalf of his or her child. In many parenting plans, just one parent will retain legal custody while sharing physical custody with the other parent. Physical custody pertains to the time that a child will spend with a parent, including during:

  • Weekend visitation
  • School breaks
  • Christmas and other major holidays
  • Summer vacation

No two custody plans are exactly the same. You may find that it is possible to share both legal and physical custody with your spouse, but this doesn't work for all families. Your family is unique, and you have the right to craft a plan that meets your unique needs while still protecting your parental rights.

A positive future for the children

The goal of any child custody agreement is to protect the best interests of the children above all else. Kids do better when they have a strong relationship with and regular access to both parents, and you would be wise to consider this as you fight for a beneficial plan.

Before you make any important decisions or agree to anything, you would be wise to reach out for support and guidance. This will help you protect your rights as a parent, shield the interests of your children and come to an agreement that is sustainable for years to come.

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