Child custody is one of the most difficult and complex issues in any divorce. It is never easy for two parents to decide what will happen with their children or how they will share time with the youngest members of the family, but it is for their benefit that parents reach a reasonable and beneficial final custody order. The terms of your custody order will affect your family for years to come, so these decisions are crucial.
One of the most important things you can do in your effort to make smart and beneficial decisions is to know as much about child custody and visitation as possible. This includes understanding the difference between legal and physical custody, as this is a critical factor in any parenting plan and custody arrangement.
Physical custody vs. legal custody
Every parent wants to spend as much time as possible with his or her children. However, there is evidence that proves children benefit when allowed to have strong relationships with and access to both parents after divorce. To create the best possible custody plan, you may need to know the difference between physical custody and legal custody, which includes:
- Physical custody: This refers to the actual amount of time you will spend with your child, including weeknights, weekends, vacations, holidays and all school breaks.
- Legal custody: This refers to the right you have to make decisions for your child, such as those involving education, health care, religious upbringing and more.
When pursuing a specific type of custody arrangement or developing a specific custody plan, it is beneficial to understand all factors that could affect your parenting time and parental rights. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to defend your interests and pursue terms that will provide stability and security for your kids for years to come.
The right choice for your family
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for child custody. The right approach depends on your family, your kids’ needs, your work schedule and many other factors. It may be helpful for you to set aside your own emotions and think about what will work best for your kids long-term when thinking about custody matters.
Before you make any long-term decisions, it will be helpful to first fully understand how both physical and legal custody will affect your Washington family.