Both legal and physical custody may be shared between divorcing parents. Either may also be granted solely to one parent if a court determines that such a separation of parental rights is necessary to serve a child's best interests. While physical custody concerns where a California child will live, legal custody concerns which of the child's parents will have decision-making power over the important aspects of the child's life.
Though a parent with legal custody of their child may have to make a multitude of decisions about their child's well-being some of the major categories of focus that parents with legal custody must address are their child's health treatments, educational pursuits, and religious exposures. A parent with legal custody may decide if and when a child receives medical care and how that care should be administered. They may decide what school the child will attend and if the child will partake in any extracurricular activities They may decide if a child will be introduced to a faith system and if so which religion that introduction will include.
A parent does not have to have physical custody of their child in order to have legal custody. In fact, when one parent has physical custody and both parents share legal custody then the child's parents must work together to make responsible choices regarding the important decisions that will guide their child's life.
Maintaining legal custody of a child after a divorce can allow a parent to stay connected with their child and involved in shaping the way the child is raised. It is important that parents in child custody negotiations recognize the important rights they may lose if they do not secure legal custody of their children, and those parents who wish to find support in their child custody fights are encouraged to discuss their needs and concerns with their family law attorneys.