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Physical versus legal child custody

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Child Custody |

If you’re one of many Louisiana parents headed for divorce, it is critical to understand state laws regarding such matters. The best type of decision is an informed decision. For example, to protect your children’s interests, you’ll want to make sure you fully understand the difference between physical child custody and legal custody.

These are two distinct issues that are relevant to child custody proceedings. In many cases, parents agree to share both types of custody. In some cases, however, they might share one but not the other. There are also situations where one parent has sole custody regarding both categories.

Physical child custody refers to your children’s full-time residence

After finalizing your divorce, your family will begin adapting to a new lifestyle. This may include moving to a new home or keeping the one you shared with your ex during marriage. As part of your settlement, you must determine (and agree on) where your children will live — more specifically, with which parent. If you and your ex are sharing custody, the kids might travel back and forth between two households.

Legal custody is about decision-making authority

As time passes, you will encounter many issues in life where you must make decisions regarding your children’s health, education, faith and other important topics. Legal child custody refers to a parent’s authority to make decisions on a child’s behalf. If you share this custody, then you and your ex must consult with each other and agree on every decision.

If only one of you has legal custody of your children, that parent can make all decisions without consulting the other parent. There are both benefits and downsides to this. It is especially helpful for you to have sole legal custody if you and your ex are always fighting over the kids or if you believe your ex is an unfit parent. On the downside, sole legal custody lumps full responsibility for all decisions into one parent’s lap.

Can you change custody orders?

A Louisiana family court judge might determine it best for your children to modify an existing child custody agreement. An example of this would be if the court were to grant temporary sole custody to one parent while the other receives treatment for alcohol or drug addiction. If that parent completes the program and becomes fit for custody, the court might grant his or her request, thereby modifying its initial orders.

If you encounter legal problems regarding physical or legal custody issues, you can reach out for additional support, rather than trying to handle the issue on your own, especially if a dispute has arisen between you and your ex.

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