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The Differences Between Physical vs. Legal Custody

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2017 | Child Custody, Divorce


What differentiates physical vs. legal custody? Physical custody has to do with time spent with a child, whereas legal custody involves decision-making rights regarding their education, health, and welfare. In Florida, it is not unheard of for the court to arrange the two differently, however, most of the time they will be shared.

The courts, in general, aim for joint custody whenever possible, provided the decision is in the child’s best interest. At Saunders Law Group, serving clients in Bartow, FL, and Lakeland, FL, we help parents reach a fair child custody agreement that benefits everyone in the family.

What Is in the Best Interest of the Child?

There is one key question to answer in any child custody case: what is in the best interest of the child? The majority of the time, the courts will base their decision on the answer to this question. The courts generally work under the assumption that children benefit most from joint custody. In a joint physical and legal custody arrangement, both parents will share time spent with the child as well as decision-making rights.

When Is Joint Custody Not Preferable?

Joint custody is not always the right answer. Here are some examples of when the court may decide against joint custody:

  • The safety of the child is in question: If there is evidence of abuse or neglect by a parent, that parent will almost certainly be denied custody.
  • The welfare of the child is in question: If a parent is unable to meet the developmental and emotional needs of the child, that parent may be refused custody. This can include, for example, a lack of involvement in extracurricular activities or failure to provide a stable environment.
  • One parent refuses to communicate: If a parent is uncooperative or unwilling to support the other parent’s relationship with the child, he or she could forfeit the chance at joint custody.
  • One parent is morally unfit: While it may sound harsh to label someone morally unfit, under Florida law, moral fitness plays a key role in child custody. If a parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol, verbally abuses the other parent, continues multiple casual relationships, or engages in illegal behavior, the parent may not be awarded any custody rights.

Why Do I Need Expert Legal Representation?

If joint custody is granted, a parenting plan will need to be made and approved by the court detailing time-sharing arrangements, division of parental tasks, who will provide health care, how communications will be made, and more. To make sure you set up a parenting plan that suits the best interest of you and your child, it is important to seek sound legal representation. At Saunders Law Group, we:

  • Understand Florida law in great detail and know what the court is looking for and what they will consider
  • Understand mediation and how to arrive at a fair parenting plan arrangement
  • Treat our clients with respect and compassion while handling a sensitive matter

Contact Saunders Law Firm

At Saunders Law Group, we understand that a divorce is an emotionally turbulent time. That is why provide our clients with compassion as well as effective legal representation. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or call our office today.


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