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What does it mean to have legal custody of a child?

Last week, this Florida legal blog introduced the topic of physical custody. Physical custody is just one of the types of child custody that a parent may fight for when they go through a divorce or otherwise create a parenting plan with their child's other parent. This week's post will discuss the topic of legal custody and, as always, readers are asked to seek their own legal advice for their pending custody issues, as this blog does not provide legal guidance.

A parent who has legal custody of their child has a host of important rights. Mainly, they have the right to exercise power over the important decisions that will influence their child's upbringing. For example, a parent with legal custody of their child can choose which school their child will attend. A parent who lacks this important form of custody may not have a strong voice in this type of important decision.

The power of legal custody extends beyond a child's schooling. Legal custody rights give parents the power to make medical and religious decisions, too. Even if a parent lacks physical custody, he or she may be granted at least joint legal custody. In other words, a parent may have decision-making power and visitation rights as a result of a child custody determination.

There are many important rights that parents must fight for when custody of their kids is under review. Though physical custody is the form of custody that allows a child to live under a parent's roof, legal custody permits a parent to guide the decisions that will directly impact their child's welfare. Both should be considered significantly important when custodial negotiations are undertaken.

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