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What's the difference between physical and legal custody?

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Anyone familiar with previous posts here knows that there are a multitude of issues to address in a divorce. However, most Maryland residents who have children and who are getting ready to go through a divorce have only one concern front-and-center: child custody.

There isn't another issue in a divorce that can invoke the fears and doubts of parents quite like the prospect of a child custody dispute with their soon-to-be ex-spouse. And although there is a rising trend among family courts to push for parties amicably resolving disputes outside of court, the fact of the matter is that there are still many divorce cases where the issue of child custody is fought out in front of a judge. So, what are the main concerns Maryland residents should be focused on? Well, as detailed in a recent article, there are two primary concepts to learn about: physical custody and legal custody.

Legal custody refers to determining which parent will ultimately be responsible for some of the major decisions that will need to be made when raising a child, such as where the child will attend school or what type of religion the child will practice. Legal custody can be invested solely in one parent over the other, but in the vast majority of cases legal custody will be a joint responsibility for the parents - and they will have to come to terms with the fact that they may need to compromise to make these important decisions.

Physical custody is an easier concept to grasp. It refers to where and with which parent the child will reside. Physical custody is oftentimes awarded to one parent over the other, with the non-custodial parent granted visitation rights on a fairly regimented schedule. However, joint custody is common in this area, with the child splitting an equal amount of time between the parents as determined by the court.

Source: American News Report, "Child Custody in a Divorce: Let the Fight Begin," Feb. 4, 2014

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