Legal Definitions of Custody

Physical and Legal Custody

Physical Custody is where the children live on a day-to-day basis.

Legal Custody is the decision-making process involving the religious, medical and education decisions for the minor child or children.

Joint and Sole Custody

Sole custody is where one parent has the exclusive authority over decisions or where the children primarily reside.

Joint custody is a decision to share parenting of the children. Parenting time need not be 50/50 to label custody as joint custody.

There is a presumption that modification of a sole custody award will take the children from one home and primarily place them into the other parent’s home. If one parent has sole custody the standard required to change custody is based on whether the child is physically and/or emotionally endangered in the custodial parent’s environment to such an extent that changing custody will be less traumatic for the child than keeping the child in the custodial parent’s environment.

Joint physical custody is modified based on what is in the best interests of the children. This is generally because the modification is made to the division of the time that the children are in the home of one joint custodial parent or the other without changing the label of “joint custody”