One of the most common questions parents ask when separating is what will happen with their kids. If parents cannot agree on parenting issues, such as who will make major decisions for the kids, where will they live and how often will they see each parent, the courts will decide these based on what appears to be in a child’s ‘best interests’.
It is a common misconception that custody means physical custody of the child, or who the child lives with. ‘Legal custody’ actually refers to who has authority to make major decisions relating to the upbringing of a child on issues such as education, medical care, religious upbringing and major extra-curricular activities. Physical custody is often referred to as ‘residence’. In a joint custody arrangement, both parents have the authority and must agree on major decisions relating to their child whereas in a sole custody situation, only one parent has such decision making authority. Who has decision-making authority is a separate issue from a residential schedule for a child.