What’s the difference between legal and physical custody?

When you have a child with someone in Connecticut and no longer intend to continue your relationship with that person, the two of you will have to negotiate custody arrangements or prepare to litigate the issue in family court. Asking for your fair share of custody is important, but you need to understand what the law entails if you are to protect and successfully assert your parental rights.

There are actually two forms of custody that either a judge or the separating parents will need to divide. Connecticut state statutes talk about both legal custody and physical custody. What are the differences between these two forms of parental authority?

Physical custody involves a child’s location and needs

The parent with physical custody at any given moment has to provide for the children’s needs. They might need to pick the child up from school if they fall ill or get sent home for disciplinary issues. They have to provide housing, food and other basics for the children when they have physical custody.

Many parents focus the majority of their custody-related efforts on physical custody matters. However, legal custody is equally important in terms of your children’s lives and your relationship with them.

Legal custody lets you make important decisions

Legal custody over your children is why you can enroll them in school, make choices about their medical care and compel them to attend certain religious services. The stronger your feelings are about matters related to their education, healthcare or daily lives, the more important sharing legal custody may be to you.

Typically, judges in Connecticut expect parents to share both physical and legal custody. However, there are times when one parent may need to make the final decision in certain matters because the parents typically don’t agree. Parents who ask for shared legal custody and specific authority related to their culture or family history will often have an easier time helping their children achieve certain long-term goals even after their divorce or separation.

Occasionally, when one parent has verifiable evidence of the other endangering the children are making poor choices, they may convince the courts to grant them more decision-making authority or substantially more parenting time. In a situation where you already have a parenting plan in place but worry that it no longer reflects what is best for your children, you can potentially go back to court to change how you share both physical and legal custody.

Learning more about the Connecticut rules for child custody issues will help you achieve the best outcome for your family during this upcoming change.