mother and child

Divorce Terminology: Legal & Physical Custody

Divorcing spouses with children face emotional decisions pertaining to child custody. Child custody refers to who legally cares for the child or children after a divorce. What parents may not think of before entering into divorce is the difference between what we call legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody: The first term to define is legal custody. Put simply, it’s who makes decisions regarding legal, educational, religious, and medical issues.

Physical custody: The second term, physical custody, refers to who has physical possession of the child. Visitation is actually a form of physical custody.

When parents enter into the discussion about custody, they will definitely hear the words “sole” and “joint”. Sole custody means one parent has legal custody and physical custody, and the other, with parental rights, has physical custody in the form of visitation. When deciding on joint custody, parents can share legal and physical custody. Joint custody doesn’t have to be a 50/50 split, either. Joint can mean one party still makes all the legal decisions, legal custody, and the other party pays support, with children spending a 25/75 time split. There’s no one way to arrange joint custody.

Whether physical or joint, custody always needs to be centered around what is best for the child — physically and emotionally. A child grows and develops best through healthy relationships with both parents, and, in Arkansas, the new presumptions is a rebuttable presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of the child.

Knowing some of the terminology and meanings behind the words can help you navigate the stress and the serious nature behind the decisions during divorce. The law firm of Hickey & Hull is here to help you understand these terms, what they mean to you, and help you find the best course through your divorce.

It’s about to get better, and we’re here to help.