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What is legal custody?

On Behalf of | Aug 3, 2022 | Child Custody |

When dealing with the custody of your children, you will need to decide on two types of custody. The Pennsylvania General Assembly explains every decision must outline rights for legal and physical custody.

Physical custody is generally what you may think of when talking about these matters. It is who has the child with them. Legal custody is a little different, yet still important.


Legal custody is the right to make decisions about your child’s care and life. It is the ability to decide medical decisions or to choose where he or she will go to school. It does not include minor everyday decisions but covers major things that will impact the child’s life.


The court will ensure that you have a final decision on both physical and legal custody before completing any child custody matters. Sometimes, you and the other parent will share both duties. In certain cases, you may share physical custody, but one parent gets legal custody. If a parent has full physical custody, he or she will also typically have full legal custody. It is essential to understand the division in your case.


Having the right to make decisions for your child is important. It will not only impact your relationship with the child but also can shape his or her life. For this reason, you want to be sure you completely understand how your custody agreement handles legal custody. If you lose legal custody, it removes many of the rights that you may take for granted, such as the ability to decide if your child should receive surgery or to determine if you will raise the child within a certain religion. The impact is significant, so do not forget about legal custody during your case.