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Legal Custody vs Physical Custody: Understanding the Differences

Following a divorce, child custody and visitation rights become some of the most contentious issues facing newly separated couples. Oftentimes, parents are unsure which factors are used to determine their custody rights, which parent will be granted custody, and whether custody will be split between the two. At Tournour & Weiner in East Brunswick, NJ, our experienced attorneys can help you understand the differences of legal custody vs. physical custody, and closely examine your case, gather compulsory information, and defend your legal rights in the custody dispute. We strive to provide the best outcome for children, for easier transitions and growth.

Photo  of a man and two small children

Understanding legal and physical custody issues can help you provide the best future for your children.

Understanding the Differences

Following a divorce, the court typically prefers to award joint legal custody of a child or children, striving to keep both parents involved in the decisions and rearing. However, there are important differences between legal and physical custody, and parents may not be awarded both. A family court judge will determine which parent will be granted physical custody, or whether custody will be shared between the two households. 

Legal Custody

Important life decisions such as education, a child’s medical care, religious affiliations, academic tutoring, and other serious choices will be made by a parent with legal custody. Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for parents to share legal custody, and work together in the decision-making process. With joint legal custody, decisions will continue to be made much in the same way as when the marriage was still intact. Even though legal custody may be split between the two parties, it is not uncommon for the primary caregiver to make some of these more pressing decisions. In this case, it is the responsibility of the parents to reach a common agreement on how these issues will be addressed. However, if both parties cannot come to an agreement, and a common understanding cannot be reached, a judge may grant sole legal custody to a single parent. 

Physical Custody

Where the child resides is determined by which parent is granted physical custody. Although custody may be sole or joint, it is more common for one parent to be granted sole physical custody of a child. In the past, joint custody was more prevalent, which split the child’s time equally between parents, but it has become more of the norm for judges to view a 50-50 split as not being in the best interest of the child or children. In most jurisdictions, the courts generally seek to minimize the disruption of the child. 

Our attorneys can help prevent any surprises that could arise if one parent decides to move out of state or away from the children, and other details that are imperative in the early stages of a custody case.

Why You Should Seek an Experienced Attorney

Child custodyvisitation rights, legal and physical custody, along with other important considerations vary from state to state, and can oftentimes become quite complex. Our attorneys can help prevent any surprises that could arise if one parent decides to move out of state or away from the children, and other details that are imperative in the early stages of a custody case. We are also here to advise you on your legal rights and how your custody dispute should be handled, whether decisions are civil between parties and mediation is recommended, or in the case that neither party can agree to terms. We will strive to provide the best possible outcome for your children.

Contact Us 

To schedule a time to meet with us, and discuss your child custody case, please send us a message to set up a consultation, or give us a call at (732)-418-9772.

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I had an excellent experience with Mr. Tournour - He was available for my calls and handled everything to perfection. Had my back in every aspect. I would highly recommend him. Renee - Client

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