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Child custody terminology explained

On Behalf of | Nov 15, 2022 | Child Custody |

In Oklahoma divorce cases involving parents of young childre, custody often becomes the primary area of concern. The terms used in custody situations can be confusing though, and so a brief discussion to define these terms may be useful. There are two main areas of child custody, which are legal and physical custody.

The differences between legal and physical custody

Physical custody is the type that most people think of when they think of child custody. It refers to with whom the child lives. If a parent has been awarded physical custody of the child, that means the child lives with that parent. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the right to make decisions about the child’s life. If a parent has been awarded legal custody of the child, that means the parent can decide where the child goes to school, what sorts of medical treatment he or she receives, if and where the child goes to church and other major upbringing decisions.

The differences between joint and sole custody

The other category of custody terms, joint and sole, refer to whether or not rights and responsibilities are shared by the parents. In a situation where parents have joint custody, that means they both have rights and responsibilities with regard to the child. A parent may also be granted sole physical or sole legal custody, in which case that parent is the only one the child lives with or the only one making decisions about the child’s upbringing.

Types of custody arrangements

Both physical and legal custody can be either joint or sole. One common circumstance is where the parents have joint physical custody, for example, in which the child lives with each parent on a rotating basis. Or joint legal custody, in which the parents make major child-raising decisions together. Joint legal custody is less common that joint physical custody due to the practical problems it can present. The courts will always make custody determinations based on the best interests of the child.