As many Colorado residents can attest to, life after divorce is drastically different from that before it. For divorcing couples with children, it can be even more altered, as parents go from seeing their children daily to seeing them based on a pre-determined schedule. While it may take time to adjust to this new reality, it is important to know that child custody can take different forms depending on the agreement the parents make, based on their individual circumstances. Familiarizing oneself with the terms commonly used during custody proceedings can be very helpful.
The most commonly understood form of custody is physical custody. This means the parent who has been granted physical custody has the child live with them. Sole physical custody refers to an award where the child lives primarily with one parent and the other parent is given visitation rights. Joint physical custody can also be awarded where the parents live relatively close to one another. This means the child spends significant portions of his or her time with both parents.
Legal custody refers to the legal authority a parent has to make decisions related to the child's upbringing, education, health and related matters. Therefore, the parent with legal custody can decide which school the child goes to, which medical care he or she receives and which religion the child will practice. Generally, courts award joint legal custody to both parents, which means they must make joint decisions about their child's upbringing and cooperate with one another.
While it is true a child benefits from having both parents play an active role in their lives, circumstances may not always allow for this. If one spouse is an unfit parent, sole physical and legal custody may be the best option for the other parent. Given the fact that emotions are high during a divorce and child custody is often the most contentious aspect of a divorce, it might be beneficial to consult an experienced attorney to learn more about one's options.