Child Custody:  Legal Custody and Physical Custody

There is a big difference between the two categories of child custody. All final decrees involving child custody must address both legal and physical custody. It is important to understand the difference and the impact one small word can have.

Legal Custody

Legal Custody is the power to make decisions regarding the care and raising of the child. It involves having basic legal responsibility for a child and making major decisions regarding the child, including the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing. Whether a child should get braces is one common example of a legal custody issue.

Physical Custody

Physical Custody is, to put it bluntly, having possession of the child. It involves the time that a child physically spends in the care of a parent. During this time, the child resides with the parent and that parent provides supervision for the child and makes the day-to-day decisions regarding the child.

In most cases, parents share joint legal custody of the child. This means that the parents discuss and make major decisions together involving the child.

Sometimes the parents cannot cooperate and make decisions together.

Nevada Child Custody Law

Nevada law does allow for a parent to have sole legal custody or sole legal custody over certain issues affecting the child.

The usual types of physical custody are (a) joint to both parents or (b) primary to one parent and visitation for the other. Joint Physical Custody is established where each parent has custody of the child at least 40% of the time. Primary Physical Custody is present where one parent has custody of the child more than 60% of the time.

The physical custody designation has a substantial effect on parents’ legal rights and obligations. The custody schedule can seriously impact a parent’s custodial rights and child support. It is vital to get the language right and make sure that you understand the custody designation and the schedule.

It is also necessary to make sure the custody schedule is specific enough to be approved by the court and enforceable in case it ever must be enforced.

Having an experienced Family Law attorney on your side is the best way to confront the challenge of arguing and preparing a legal, fair, and enforceable child custody schedule.

John F. Keuscher
Family Law Attorney, Reno, Nevada