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Understanding the difference between legal and physical custody

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2019 | Firm News | 0 comments

Couples facing the prospect of divorce in Colorado may feel like they have entered a brave new world with an entirely different language. The legal jargon associated with divorce is confusing for most people. Misconceptions about what the law really requires as well as your rights and responsibilities as a parent can lead to people making mistakes in how they approach divorce and child custody.

One of the most common issues is a failure to understand the jargon used regarding custody. Colorado courts no longer refer to custody. Instead, they allocate parental rights and responsibilities, which they outline in a parenting plan. In most scenarios, the courts split rights and responsibilities between both parents.

Divorcing couples may find the rules for legal and physical custody confusing. Understanding the difference between the two can help you advocate for the best possible custody outcome.

Physical custody refers to where your child lives

When the courts talk about physical custody in a parenting plan, they are talking about parenting time. The parent with physical custody at any given moment is the one who is responsible for housing, feeding and otherwise providing for the child.

It is common for parents to share physical custody, sometimes alternating weeks or weekdays and weekends. Regardless of what situation works best for you, shared physical custody is the standard for most Colorado divorces.

Legal custody refers to decision-making authority over your children

Until children reach the age of majority, their parents have the legal right to make many important decisions on their behalf. Medical decisions are a common point of contention in divorce. One parent may have a religion that forbids surgery or blood transfusions, for example, while the other parent feels that standard modern medical care is the best option.

Legal custody can also involve decisions relating to schooling and living arrangements, as well as religion, extracurricular activities and socialization. In other words, legal custody impacts how you care for and raise your children.

Parents can share both kinds of custody

Most people understand that shared physical custody is common in divorce. Shared legal custody is also very likely for most couples. That means that you and your ex are going to have to figure out a way to compromise and work together to make decisions for your kids.

Working together to create a parenting plan as you divorce is one of the best ways to find equilibrium with your ex for parenting. Your kids deserve parents who cooperate and work in their best interest, rather than parents who fight over every little concern. However, you should still protect your rights and interests by talking with an experienced Colorado family law attorney once you realize divorce is likely.