What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody is about which parent gets to make major decisions regarding a child’s health, education, religion or welfare.  Things like what school he or she will attend? Whether or not the child should get a flu shot or take ADHD medication? What religion the child will be raised in or whether or not to raise the child in a specific faith?

If parents can communicate well and can put aside their differences easily, then they are good candidates for joint legal custody.   With joint legal custody, each parent has equal say in a major decision.

If parents are unable to communicate and cannot put aside their anger or differences easily, then it’s usually best for the child that one parent have final say on a major decision after the parents have shared information and attempted to come to a mutual decision.

Regardless of what kind of legal custody you have, in North Carolina, both parents have equal access to a child’s medical and educational records unless a Court decides that he or she should not have such access.

What is Physical Custody?

Physical custody is about a parent’s time with his or her child.   There is no one specific schedule that fits every family.   The schedule depends on a variety of factors such as the child’s age; the distance between homes; the parent’s ability to communicate; any special needs a child may have and whether or not both parents can meet those needs; whether or not the parents communicate well regarding the child; whether or not a parent has any issues such as substance abuse, health or untreated mental health issues or whether the parents have been subjected to domestic violence.

There are several different kinds of physical custody.   Joint physical custody means that the parents have the children for about the same amount of time i.e. a week on/week off schedule; a schedule in which Mom has every Monday and Tuesday overnight and Dad has every Wednesday and Thursday overnight and then they alternate weekends.

Primary physical custody means that the children reside primarily with one parent and have parenting time with the other parent i.e. the children are with dad during the week and have alternating weekends with mom.

Or, in some families, it makes sense to have the children reside primarily with one parent during the school year and visit the other parent on alternate weekends and then to flip that schedule for the summer.   That enables both parents to have significant, uninterrupted time with the children.

As you can see, there are as many types of possible schedules as there are families.   Our firm specializes in helping our clients come up with parenting plans that are as unique and special as their children and that will enable their children not just to survive the separation, but to thrive.   Our knowledge and expertise are based on having handled hundreds of custody cases for over twenty years in a variety of settings as well as personal knowledge and experience as parents and grandparents.