There is a distinction between physical custody and legal custody.
- Physical custody refers to the living arrangements for your child, i.e. where your child eats and sleeps.
- Legal custody refers to the legal responsibility for your child, i.e. the decision-making related to your child’s health and medical treatment, education, and general welfare.
You and your spouse can negotiate any type of custody arrangement as long as your child’s best interests are served. It is best if both you and your spouse have continuing contact with your child.
Some possible arrangements are as follows:
You can have joint legal custody. This allows both of you to have a say in making decisions that are in the best interest of your child.
You can have joint physical custody which means that your child will spend time living with each parent. The division of this time varies from situation to situation. It does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split of time.
There are many different schedules that can be used. It can vary from one week with one parent and the next week with the other parent to a schedule where the child lives with one parent for three days, the other parent for three days, then with the first parent for four days and the other parent for four days and so on. The child could also spend weekends and some evenings with one parent and the rest of the time with the other parent.
A parenting plan would be worked out that becomes part of your Separation Agreement.
One of you can have sole legal custody which would give you the right to make all decisions for the welfare of your child without the input of the other parent.
Even if one of you has sole legal custody, you can still have an arrangement for either sole physical custody or joint physical custody.
One of you can have sole physical custody which means that your child lives with one parent and has a visitation schedule to maintain regular contact with the other parent. Even if one of you has sole physical custody, you can still share legal custody if you both agree. So, both parents would be involved in making the decisions about your child’s health, education, and welfare even though your child lives mainly with one parent.
Determining how to share time with your child can be difficult. It is best to consult with a divorce lawyer/family law attorney so you can fully understand the various options available to you.