When someone who is on the verge of divorce says that they want to get custody of their children, they often assume there is just one type of custody. They essentially think that having custody means getting to retain all of their parental rights.
The truth is that there are two different types of child custody that can be awarded — together or separately. These are physical custody, which addresses where the child lives, and legal custody, which addresses who gets to make important decisions for the child.
An example of divided custody
Generally, courts prefer to split these types of custody between both parents. They want you and your ex to both spend time living with the children and to cooperate when making decisions for them.
However, there are times when custody gets divided. For instance, one parent may have a far more stable living situation, while the other parent’s living situation just isn’t safe for a kid. That parent may get a right to visit the child at the home, but not to have the child live with them full time.
Even so, despite an unstable living condition, the court may recognize that the other parent should still be involved in religious decisions, medical decisions, educational decisions and the like for their offspring. They can split up legal custody so that the parent who just visits the child still has a say in these issues. If so, both parents have to work together or potentially get the court to assist when they cannot.
You can see how a custody issue may grow more complex than you expected. You need to be well aware of your legal custody rights and how to protect that precious parent-child relationship you have.