Legal Custody refers to the ability to make important decisions on the child’s behalf. These decisions include choices about medical care, education, and religious beliefs. Joint legal custody is when both parents have the ability to make these types of decisions and therefore must discuss the possible choices and then they must agree on what decision to make. If only one parent has legal custody, then they do not have to consult with the other parent to reach a decision, and the other parent is not permitted to make these types of decisions at all.
Regardless of whether a parent has legal custody, they are still permitted to access their child’s school or medical records without consulting the other parent.
Physical Custody refers to which parent the child lives with. In Virginia, when the child lives with one parent more than 90 full days a year, then the parents have shared physical custody. If one parent has the child for 90 or less full days a year, then the other parent has primary physical custody. The difference that this distinction makes is related to child support. There are two different formulas used to calculate child support, depending on whether the parents have shared physical custody or not.
We know that this can be confusing, and often we have clients who get confused trying to use the correct legal terminology to explain what they want. The easiest way to explain to your attorney what it is that you want is to simply explain what you would like the final arrangement to look like, without worrying about what the court will call it. Let your Commander Law attorney figure out what to call it, and make your focus figuring out what is the best arrangement for your child.