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Edward J. Jennings P.A Motto

Legal vs. Physical Child Custody


If you are divorced with children, you may be aware of several types of child custody. There is sole custody, which means one parent gets custody of the kids, while joint custody means both parents share custody.

There are also a couple subcategories: legal custody and physical custody. But what do these terms mean and which parent makes the decisions? Read on to learn more.

Legal Custody 

When a parent has legal custody, they get to make major decisions for the children. This may include where the children go to school, medical decisions, religion and extracurricular activities. Legal custody is often shared by the parents, but that does not necessarily mean that they get an equal say in all matters. When minor incidents occur, usually the parent who has physical custody at the time can take care of the situation without the other parent’s input. While it’s ideal that both parents agree on major decisions, typically the parent who has primary physical custody overrules.  An exception would be if something is outlined in the parenting plan. If you don’t allow the other parent any say in a major decision, then he or she could get the court involved.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child lives, and this is the type of custody that most parents are fighting for because they want to spend time with their parents. If the parents have joint physical custody, then the child spends time with both parents. However, this is usually not 50/50. The child will usually spend the weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other.  This is the easiest way when the children are school age. While the courts prefer joint custody, this works best when the parents live close to each other. If one parent lives several hours away or moves out of state, then this becomes more difficult.

One parent may fight for sole custody if they feel the other parent is not capable of caring for the kids. For example, if they are homeless, suffer from addiction or have neglected or abused the children in the past, then the other parent may fight to keep that parent away from the kids. If one parent does get awarded sole custody, then the other parent will usually get some sort of visitation. The noncustodial parent will be able to visit or spend time with their kids.

The amount of physical custody a parent has often determines the amount of child support the custodial parent receives from the other parent. This is because both parents have an obligation to financially support their children.

Seek Legal Help

If you are divorced with children, you want to ensure that the custody situation in your case is in the child’s best interests. While you may prefer sole custody, children typically fare better when both parents are in their lives, unless there are situations such as abuse or addiction involved.

Have questions about child custody? Contact Fort Lauderdale child custody attorney Edward J. Jennings, P.A. He can assist you in getting the type of custody you desire. Schedule a consultation today. Call 954-764-4330 or fill out the online form.


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The first step in solving your legal problem is to meet with a skilled, experienced lawyer in a confidential setting to discuss your matter. After getting to know you and your unique situation, your attorney can explain your options and guide you toward the best path to resolution. Whether you need general advice or are in the midst of a serious legal dispute, the law office of Edward J. Jennings, P.A. is here for you. Are you contemplating litigation, or have you recently been served with a lawsuit? Fill out the form below to schedule a consultation with an attorney at our firm.

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