Personal Representation
From Experienced Charleston Family Law Attorneys

The difference between sole legal and sole physical custody

On Behalf of | Sep 8, 2022 | Child Custody

As parents in West Virginia negotiate child custody issues, they will need to understand how custody and visitation work. Understanding that custody includes both physical and legal custody and that each custody type is decided separately can help them better comprehend how custody is awarded.

Legal and physical custody

The upbringing of a child includes many facets. Some will refer to the environment the child lives in and some to the decisions that the parents will need to make regarding the child’s life. As such, courts determine the two types of custody to be awarded. Physical custody refers to the home in which the child will live most of the time. Legal custody refers to the decision-making power of the parent or parents when it comes to issues such as a child’s medical care, education and religious formation.

Sole custody: the differences between legal and physical

Sole legal custody makes one parent legally responsible for the important decisions that will impact their child’s life. Sole physical custody makes one parent the one responsible for the day-to-day living of the child as the child will reside with them. The other parent might still retain visitation rights.

Sometimes, legal and physical custody will be awarded jointly, meaning that both parents will share the responsibilities that come with each type. In many cases, parents are awarded joint legal custody, but only one parent is awarded sole physical custody. In rarer cases, one parent will be awarded sole legal and physical custody.

Factors that affect custody decisions

When making custody decisions, courts will consider many factors. These include:
• The age of the child and their different needs
• Each parent’s ability to meet all of their child’s needs
• Each parent’s physical and mental health
• Any history of abuse on the part of a parent, including substance, physical or domestic

Child custody is delicate. However, it is always decided in the best interests of the child.