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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Apr 24, 2015

Divorce is never easy for a couple, and it can be especially difficult when the splitting couple are parents. Often, couples cannot agree on how to continue caring for their children, and the matter becomes part of the court proceedings, where the court makes a decision based on the best interests of the children involved. If you are going through a divorce and you have children, here are some things you should know:

Custody is a legal term referring to the right of a person to make decisions about the care and welfare of a child. The parent with custody of the child is called the “custodial parent.” In most cases, the child lives with the custodial parent most of the time.

Legal Custody
Legal custody is the status where one or both parents are responsible for making the major decisions regarding the child’s care or welfare. When legal custody is awarded to one parent, it is called “sole legal custody.” The court orders that one parent is responsible for making the major decisions regarding the child’s care or welfare. Although both parents may discuss these matters, the parent designated by the court has authority to make final decisions.

Joint Custody
In addition to sole custody, the law allows the court to grant joint legal custody and/or joint physical custody. When the court grants joint legal custody, each parent has the same rights to make decisions about the child’s care and welfare and neither’s rights are superior to those of the other parent. The court may direct that certain decisions be made by only one parent, even when joint legal custody is granted. The court may also order joint legal custody without ordering joint physical custody.

When the court grants joint physical custody, the child’s physical residence is shared and the child will have essentially equal time and contact with both parents. Joint physical custody may be granted in situations where parents share joint legal custody or when one parent is granted sole custody.

If you and your spouse are seeking a legal separation, or you’re asking the court to change a previous custody decision, talk to an attorney regarding the different types of legal custody and what your rights and options are as a parent to ensure that you play an important role in your child’s life.