For parents in Utah who are getting a divorce, the main concern is usually the custody of the children. Adding to that concern is the confusion surrounding the different ways in which child custody can be awarded. For instance, many parents may not realize that there is a distinction between physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody, as the term implies, is granted to the parent who the children will physically live with after the divorce. The children will spend the majority of their time with the parent who is given sole physical custody. Visitation rights are normally granted to the other parent. When a court awards joint physical custody to the parents, it does not necessarily mean the children live with each parent equally. However, the children do spend a significant amount of time with each parent.
The concept of legal custody applies to the ability of the parents to make decisions regarding their children’s lives. These days, most courts will grant joint legal custody to the parents, which requires them to make decisions together regarding the children. For instance, the parents would have to decide together what religion, if any, to bring up the children, what school they will attend and decisions regarding their medical care. Sole legal custody is not ordinarily granted except under certain circumstances since the participation of both parents in their children’s lives is encouraged.
Therefore, it is common for one parent to receive sole physical custody of the children, and legal custody is shared. Having at least some understanding of how child custody is awarded can help Utah parents decide how to proceed. Ultimately, it is the best interests of the children that will govern how the court decides the issues if the matter goes to court. Otherwise, the parents are free to put together their own parenting plan, which gives them more control over how they will raise their children.
Source: FindLaw, “The Various Types of Child Custody“, , Aug. 30, 2014