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How does legal custody differ from physical placement?

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2020 | Family law |

When parents in the Waterloo area divorce, one of their most pressing concerns may be child custody. After all, even if parents are no longer in love with each other, they both may love their child deeply. Iowa law has provisions regarding the legal custody of a child as well as the physical placement of the child.

Legal custody

Legal custody confers upon a parent the right to make major life decisions regarding the child’s care, such as where the child will go to school, what doctors the child will see and what religion the child will participate in. Legal custody may be joint or sole. It is important to note that legal custody does not address with whom the child will live. In either case, legal custody decisions will be made based on the child’s best interests.

Joint legal custody means that each parent has an equal right to make these major decisions. Neither parent’s right is superior to the other parent’s right.

Sole legal custody means only one parent has a right to make these major life decisions. Sole legal custody may be awarded if the court finds that it is in the child’s best interests for only one parent to make major life decisions regarding the child.

Physical placement

Physical placement refers to with whom the child will live. The parent with whom the child lives is the “custodial parent” and the child’s other parent is the “noncustodial parent.” Physical placement confers upon a parent to make day-to-day decisions regarding the child’s care.

Sometimes parents share “joint physical care.” This means they both equally and regularly have the child in their care. Like joint legal custody, one parent’s right to physical care of the child is not superior to the other parent’s right to physical care of the child.

Take a careful approach to child custody decisions

Ultimately, all child custody decisions must serve the child’s best interests. Family law issues such as child custody require a careful approach as they could affect the lives of both the child and the parents for years to come. Burned bridges can cause lasting harm, so if a settlement is possible, it may be beneficial for all involved. Our firm’s family law website may be a good starting point for divorcing parents who are concerned about child custody and other divorce legal issues.