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Is physical custody more important than legal custody?

A recent post here discussed the very important ability of parents to be able to modify and change their child custody plans in order to serve their children’s best interests. Those parents who have had to deal with child custody matters already know that there are generally two components to making a custody plan: deciding where the children will physically live and deciding who will have the authority to make important decisions about them. Both physical custody and legal custody of children are important for the welfare of a child, although depending upon the circumstances one type of custody may be more significant to a parent than the other.

Physical custody has to do with where the child or children will live. A parent with sole physical custody will be the primary custodian of the children and the children will generally live exclusively with that individual. A parent who does not have physical custody of a child may secure visitation with the youth, but such arrangements are often made at the discretion of the courts.

Legal custody concerns the power of a parent to decide important issues for the children. A parent with sole legal custody may control the health care and education decisions for the kids, as well as other significant decisions about the child’s upbringing. Both physical custody and legal custody may be shared between the parents, just as either or both forms of child custody may be granted to just one of the parents.

Some parents want more than anything to have significant time with their kids, and for those parents physical custody rights may be more important than legal custody rights. However, other parents may prioritize their own abilities to make decisions about their kids’ lives over actually having their kids live under their roofs. Parents should consider their own desires with regard to such matters, but should also recognize that when it comes to deciding child custody matters courts will work to preserve the best interests of the children with their determinations

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