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Common Custody Terms

Legal custody: Legal custody refers to the right that a parent or guardian of a child has to make major decisions for a child, including but not limited to medical care, schooling, and religion. Sole legal custody means that only one individual has legal custody of a child, while shared legal custody means that legal custody is shared by two or more individuals.

Physical custody: Physical custody refers to where a child spends his or her time, and who cares for him or her on a day-to-day basis during that time. Sole physical custody means that only one individual has physical custody of a child, while shared physical custody means that two or more individuals share physical custody. Some parties may share “joint” or “50/50” custody of a child, which means that the child spends an equal number of overnights with both parties. In other cases, one party will have primary physical custody (meaning more than 50% of the overnights during a calendar year), while the other party will have partial physical custody (fewer than 50% of the overnights during a calendar year). Finally, while most parties enjoy unsupervised physical custody, some parties’ physical custody time must be supervised (either by another individual or a facility.

Custody schedule: The custody schedule refers to the set times that each party spends with the child. This can vary widely from case-to-case, but generally speaking, custody schedules may include a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly rotation of overnights, as well as exchange times for when the parties will exchange custody of the child. A very common partial physical custody schedule would be every other weekend, while common 50/50 physical custody schedules include week-on, week-off and 2-2-3 (the parents alternate Monday-Wednesday, Wednesday-Friday, and Friday-Monday).

Transportation: Transportation refers to how the parties will transport the child to and from custody exchanges (whether at a party’s home, at school, or at another location), and it may also include how the parties are to transport the child to school, medical appointments, extracurriculars, and other events. Parties typically share transportation, though that is not possible in every case.

Relocation: Relocation refers to a party moving with a child in such a way that would significantly impact the other party’s physical custody rights. Parties must have one another’s permission, or a Court Order, in order to relocate with a child. While circumstances in every case differ, generally speaking, a move down the street in the same school district would probably not be a relocation, while a move from a nearby town to another state typically would be considered a relocation.

Custody conciliation: A custody conciliation is an initial meeting where the parties have the chance to discuss the terms of a potential custody agreement. If the parties are able to reach an agreement during a conciliation, then the conciliator will enter a custody order reflecting the terms of their agreement. If parties are not able to reach an agreement, the conciliator may choose to recommend a temporary order to the Court with a custody schedule and other terms for the parties to follow until they are able to have a hearing in front of the judge, or the conciliator may choose not to enter such an Order (depending on the circumstances).

Custody Trial: A custody trial is the final proceeding before the Court to determine custody, presided over by a judge. Like any trial, the parties will have the opportunity to testify, to present their own witnesses, to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses, and to introduce evidence. The court will evaluation specific “custody factors” in determining what custody schedule is in the best interest of the child. At the conclusion of the custody trial, the judge will ultimately issue a custody Order (which may be issued that same day or at a later date). Often, neither party gets everything that they want when the Court issues a custody Order, as the judge will decide what is in the child’s best interests, rather than conform to either party’s respective requests.

If you are interested in discussing your unique custody matter in more detail with one of our attorneys, contact Tanner Law Offices at (717) 731-8114 for a consultation with one of our attorneys.