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What Is The Difference Between Physical Custody And Legal Custody?


Within the state of Florida, there are two types of custody that divorcing parents must be aware of. By being aware of these two types of custody, obtaining the appropriate form of custody is much easier.

 What Is Physical Custody? 

Physical custody is a term that refers to where a child lives and who that child lives with. Within the state of Florida, there are two types of physical custody. These two types of physical custody are as follows:

  • Sole Physical Custody
  • Joint Physical Custody

Sole physical custody is a situation in which a child lives with only one parent.

Many sole physical custody arrangements allow the other parent to visit and spend time with their child. But, their child will not live with them, as the other parent has sole physical custody.

Joint physical custody is, as the name suggests, an arrangement in which a child lives with both parents. This living arrangement is dictated by a parenting plan that clarifies when a child will live with one parent and, then, when that same child will live with the other parent.

 What Is Legal Custody? 

Legal custody is a term that refers to a parent’s right to make significant decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. Some of the different decisions that a parent with legal custody can make are as follows:

  • The school that the child attends.
  • The child’s healthcare provider.
  • The child’s religious upbringing
  • Where the child lives and resides.

Just as with physical custody, there are two types of legal custody. The two types of legal custody are as follows: 

  • Sole Legal Custody
  • Joint Legal Custody

Sole legal custody is a situation in which one parent has the legal authority to make decisions related to the child’s school and healthcare, among other pertinent facets of that child’s life.

Joint legal custody is similar to sole legal custody, but with one major difference: both parents have the right to make significant legal decisions for their children.

For a joint legal custody arrangement to be successful, both parents must be able to communicate effectively. But, if those parents cannot, a joint legal custody arrangement can be challenging.

How Does The Court Determine Which Form Of Custody To Award? 

To determine both physical and legal custody, the court will assess many factors. Some of the most significant factors are as follows:

  • The age of the child.
  • The child’s health.
  • Where each parent lives.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment.
  • Each parent’s employment schedule.
  • The child’s relationship with each parent.
  • Each parent’s involvement in the child’s education.
  • Whether or not there is a history of abuse or violence for either parent.

Every single one of these factors is used to determine physical custody and legal custody.

Even if a parent is not awarded physical custody, they will, almost always, have visitation rights. But, if that parent has a history of abuse and violence, then this may not be the case.

The same is true for legal custody; some parents may not have any legal custody of their children, but it is likely they will still have visitation rights.

Speak With A Tampa Divorce Lawyer Today 

Child custody, in all of its forms, is complex and often challenging. Speak with a Tampa divorce lawyer today and we will assist you in obtaining the best custody outcome for you and your children.





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