When people discuss child custody they frequently discuss a variety of terms: Legal Custody, Physical Custody, Full Custody, Sole Custody, and Joint Custody.  Frequently, however, many people use these terms without truly understanding what they mean or the implications.  For that reason, I have decided to give a basic overview of each of these terms.

The law recognizes two specific types of child custody: legal and physical.  The distinction between them is based upon the parental rights embodied by each.  One of the most essential things that parents do for their children is assisting them with the decisions that affect their lives.  For many families, this is part of the parent-child relationship that last long after the children enter adulthood.

However, young children are often unprepared to fully understand and appreciate consequences of life’s decisions, which is why most important decisions are made by parents.  Legal custody is concerned with each parent’s ability to make these important decisions.  Frequently these decisions fall into one of four categories: non-emergency medical care; religious upbringing; education; and extracurricular activities.

When parents divorce, it is important to decide how these decisions will be made.  It is common for the parties to agree that both parents will have the right to provide input on these issues.  However, if the parties can’t agree on a particular decision, one party is typically given ‘tie-breaking authority’ on the issue.  This can be done by agreement or it can be a right awarded by the courts.

The other specific type of custody the law recognizes is physical custody.  This is much more straightforward than legal custody.  Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like and governs who has the right to have the child or children with them at any given time.

The remaining three types of custody mentioned are terms that refer to how legal and physical custody rights are allocated between the parties.  Full custody and sole custody are used interchangeably and refer to a situation where all parental rights are vested entirely in one parent.  Joint custody is where the parties share these rights.  Joint custody does not necessarily mean an equal division of those rights, merely that each parent enjoys some of them.

If you would like more information, contact a Gwinnett County child custody attorney at The Ward Law Firm today at (770) 383-1973.

David Ward
Georgia Divorce, Family Law and Estate Planning Attorney. Helping Parents Protect The Things That Matter Most
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by Raymond V. Kramer December 15, 2021 at 07:08 AM
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