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Dear Attorneys,

My husband’s divorce attorney sent me a proposal about custody, and I have some questions. Why is it mentioning different scenarios for physical and legal custody of the kids? What is the difference between the two? I expected whoever had physical custody to have legal custody, and I was hoping that would be me. Am I wrong?


The Custodian


Dear Custodian,

There are definitely differences between physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody has to do with where the children are living. For example, if the children are going to primarily live with one parent, that parent will have “primary” physical custody. Alternatively, there may be a shared parenting plan with either no primary physical custody designated, or an acknowledgment of primary physical custody simply for a school district. A shared parenting plan means each parent will have equal (more or less) parenting time, and therefore, the parents will have shared physical custody.

Legal custody is about decision making. Specifically, legal custody encompasses medical, religion, and educational decisions for the children, as well as decisions pertaining to the children’s general well-being. There are a few legal custody options, but the most typical is when the parents have joint legal custody.  This means that the parents need to work together to make decisions for the children. Alternatively, one parent can have sole legal custody, so that they are the only parent in charge of making decisions for the children, and do not have to consult the other parent. Sometimes parenting plans also call for “joint legal custody with final decision making.” So essentially, both parents are still consulted about the decision at hand, however if there is no agreement, one parent can have the final say.

With over 22 years of combined experience, Attorneys Kristen Wolf & Shari-Lynn Cuomo Shore can help you choose and negotiate custody scenarios that are the best fit for you and your family.  Call us today, and let us make your matter easier, not harder. Ever argue with a woman? Let Wolf & Shore Law Group go to work for you. Call us at 203.745.3151 or email us at

Very Truly Yours,

Wolf & Shore Law Group

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