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If you’re attempting to reach a child custody agreement, you’ve probably heard of legal custody and physical custody. But what, exactly, do these terms mean, and what impact might they have on your custody battle?

Legal custody: The power to make decisions for your child

Legal custody simple refers to the power of one or both parents to make significant life decisions on behalf of their child, including those involving:

  • Religious upbringing
  • Medical decisions
  • Education decisions

Both parents can receive legal custody. However, if both of you are seeking legal custody, proving you can communicate with one another is essential.

Physical custody: Where your child will live

Physical custody, as you can probably guess, refers to who the child will be living with most of the time. It’s possible to share physical custody. However, the title of custodial parent will only go to one person.

What about visitation?

Only one parent may receive sole legal and physical custody. However, the law recognizes that children benefit from having a relationship with both parents whenever possible. What was once called “visitation” is now called partial physical custody or supervised physical custody.

Reaching a decision that’s in your child’s best interests

The court will consider several factors when making a custody decision. The goal is to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the child. Regardless of whether you are seeking full custody or merely wish to assert your parental rights, you should always discuss your situation with a skilled professional.