Parents with minor children facing divorce worry about what the end of their marriage will mean for their relationship with their children. For some people, these concerns are so serious that they delay getting divorced for months or even years.
If you know your rights as a divorcing parent, you may have an easier time planning for your divorce and minimizing its impact on your relationship with your kids. Whether you negotiate custody arrangements with your spouse or ask a judge to make the decisions, you will need to divide both physical and legal custody.
The difference between physical and legal custody
Legal custody confers decision-making authority regarding the children. Physical custody arrangements determine when you see your children. Both forms of custody are important for your family after you and your spouse divorce.
Sharing physical custody presents different challenges than sharing legal custody. You only have to have a schedule and the commitment to abide by it to make shared physical custody work. Sharing legal custody can be more challenging, especially if you have different values than your co-parent. You may disagree about the right daycare for your children or whether they can join a soccer team when they have had mediocre grades recently.
With the exception of decisions made during your individual parenting time, such as approving medical care required after a sudden illness or injury you will typically need to reach an agreement with your co-parent about most major decisions regarding your children. In situations where you cannot reach an agreement or where your co-parent won’t abide by the existing custody order, you may have to go back to the court for a modification. Knowing what kind of custody arrangements you need will help you prepare for your divorce.