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What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2024 | Child Custody

All types of child custody are not the same. Indiana law recognizes both parents’ rights to legal and physical custody of their children. Each type has its own rights and responsibilities.

Child custody process

The first step in the process is typically for one parent to file a petition for child custody with the court. The process may vary depending on whether the parents are married or unmarried.

Both parents may be required to attend mediation to attempt to reach an agreement about child custody. If the parents can’t agree, the court will hold a hearing to decide what custodial arrangement is in the child’s best interest.

When deciding these matters, courts are guided by the best interests of the child, and many factors, including the child’s relationship with his or her parents, their adjustment to their home, school, and community, how well the parents communicate and work together for the benefit of the child, who has cared for the child in the past, and the mental health of all involved.

Legal and physical custody

The court will issue a custody order, which will state which parent has legal custody and which parent has physical custody, or whether they will share these responsibilities. Legal custody means that a parent has decision-making authority. Physical custody generally refers to which parent the child lives with.

If a parent has sole legal custody, that parent has exclusive decision-making authority related to the child’s education, healthcare, and religion.

Primary custody means that a child lives with one parent more than half of the time, or more than the other parent.

If parents share joint physical custody, it means that the child spends time living with both parents. There are many types of schedules for parenting time when parents share joint custody.

There are many types of custodial arrangements and each case is unique. If you have questions about custody, contact the attorneys at Ruppert & Schaefer to learn more.