When it comes to discussing the custody arrangements and parenting responsibilities of a child in a divorce or separation, there are two terms to remember: physical custody and legal custody.
Both types of custody should be addressed in whatever custody arrangement you and your ex come to, as the terms refer to very different things.
What Is Physical Custody?
Physical custody is, in short, who has the physical responsibility for a child at any given time.
In other words, physical custody deals with which parent the child spends time with, and when.
Physical custody may be granted solely to one parent, but this is rare and usually reserved for cases where the other parent is unfit or not physically present in the child’s life. More often, parents share physical custody of their children, with arrangements ranging from the child residing with one parent the majority of the time to parents sharing time with the child evenly.
When it comes to physical custody, the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time is considered the primary physical custodian. This person’s address is considered the child’s “home” address for the purposes of things such as school attendance.
What Factors Are Used to Determine Physical Custody?
As with most other decisions relating to the care and upbringing of the children in a split custody situation, the Best Interests of the Child principle typically are used.
Some of the factors that can be considered when deciding which parent should be granted physical custody of a child include:
- Which parent has historically provided the majority of a child’s care
- Which parent has the best resources and support to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs going forward
- Which parent lives in the child’s current school district
In some cases, older children may be allowed to provide input on which parent is granted physical custody.
What Are Visitation Rights?
In some cases, one parent may be granted “physical custody” of a child, with the other parent receiving “visitation rights.”
Some factors that can impact whether visitation rights are used in a specific situation include:
- The distance the parents live from one another
- The amount of time the child will be under the care of each parent
- The fitness of one parent to provide for the physical and emotional needs of the child
Just because a parent is given visitation rights and not physical custody doesn’t mean they’re an unfit parent. Instead, it may mean that the parent lives too far from the child to make shared physical custody practical.
Child Custody Attorney in Washington, D.C.
If you need help navigating the confusing waters that involve physical custody of your child, the team at Lopez Law Firm can help. We’ve assisted many clients with putting together their child custody agreements, helping all parties move forward to a healthy, happy life. Schedule your consultation today!