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Katzenstein Law Offices

Legal Custody vs Physical Custody:
Understanding the Differences

When considering divorce, it is important to understand the differences between legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody relates to a parent's ability to make decisions regarding the welfare of the child. Physical custody, on the other hand, dictates where the child will live. When determining custody, a judge or third party will take into account the child's best interests, as well as the family dynamics prior to divorce. Attorney Robert Katzenstein in Holland, PA, has been advocating on behalf of clients for over four decades, and he understands the nuances of family law matters. He can help you secure both legal and physical custody, so you can remain an active part of your child's life. To schedule your consultation, contact our firm today.

image of child custody
Parents may be granted legal and/or physical custody, depending upon what is deemed to be in the best interests of the child.

What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody affords a parent the authority to make long-term decisions about how to raise a child. This parent handles vital aspects of the child's life, including medical care, education, and religion. When married, spouses share decision-making responsibilities. In the case of divorce, the court often feels it is in the best interests of the child to maintain this framework, barring extenuating circumstances such as abuse or neglect. As such, they will often grant joint legal custody, meaning all major decisions will continue to be made by both parents.

A judge will prioritize the child’s best interest when awarding custody.

While joint legal custody is preferable, it is not always practical. Many parents are unable to come to a consensus on which school to enroll their child in, which doctor to visit, and so forth. If parents are unable to agree, a judge may grant sole legal custody to one parent over the other. In some cases, the judge may decide to order joint legal custody but designate one parent as the final decision-maker should the two disagree. This is not dissimilar to sole legal custody, however, it does promote a sense of teamwork between parents.

What is Physical Custody?

Whereas legal custody has to do with a child's upbringing, physical custody will determine where they live. When the court grants sole physical custody to either the mother or father (called the "custodial" parent), the child will live exclusively in that parent's home. Physical custody can also be shared, in which case the child will live with each parent for a substantial period of time. The court can create a parenting schedule, such as an alternating weeks or a two weeks schedule, in which the child will transition between houses on a weekly or biweekly basis. 

Factors that Impact Custody

A judge will prioritize the child’s best interests when awarding custody. They can evaluate a number of factors, including:

  • The living situation of each parent
  • The relationship the child has with each parent prior to divorce
  • Whether continuity is feasible
  • The preference of the child
  • Whether or not each parent is cooperative and willing to support the other’s relationship with the child
  • Abuse, neglect, or other form of mistreatment

These family matters are very sensitive issues, and should be handled with the utmost care and consideration. Mr. Katzenstein can review the unique circumstances of your case and advocate on your behalf, to help ensure you are granted custody of your child.

Remain Part of Your Child's Life

If you are considering divorce, family law attorney Robert Katzenstein can fight for your custodial rights to ensure you receive a fair custody agreement. To learn more about how our team at Katzenstein Law Offices can help, contact us online or call (215) 322-3400 today.

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Holland Office

86 Buck Rd
Ste 2
Holland, PA 18966

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