Legal custody typically indicates who has decision-making power. Physical custody typically indicates who has the child for what periods of time. Parents may share joint legal custody. Parents may share joint physical custody. One party may have primary physical custody while the other party has secondary physical custody. One party may have legal custody. Parenting plans (schedules of time for each parent to spend with their children) can be simple or complex.
In a litigated custody proceeding, a court must determine custody of a child based upon the “best interest” of the child. In making such a determination, the court must consider all relevant factors including who is the child’s primary caregiver, the relationship of the child with each parent, whether there have been any acts of domestic violence between the parties, and the safety of the child. Between the mother and father, regardless of whether natural or adoptive, there is no legal presumption as to who will better promote the interests and welfare of a child. In the event either parent requests joint custody in a civil proceeding, joint custody must be considered by a court.