When you and your spouse got divorced, you divided time with your child. Maybe your schedule is very simple and you each have the child every other week. Some co-parents will also use a schedule where the child is with one parent on the weekends and the other during the school week.
This schedule defines who should take care of the child and where they will live. But what if major decisions have to be made? Say that the child needs medical care. Who gets to decide what medical treatments they receive? Who chooses the doctor or the hospital? Does the parent who is physically with the child just get to make any decisions they want without consulting the other co-parent?
How custody gets divided
The key thing to remember in a situation like this is that both physical and legal custody can be divided differently. Where the child lives is known as physical custody or parenting time. The power to make these major decisions – about medical care, schooling, religion and more – is known as legal custody.
For instance, the court may have determined that both you and your ex have equal legal custody, regardless of where the child lives. This means that the two of you would have to work together. You could not take the child in for medical treatments without asking your ex. You couldn’t enroll them in a new school without discussing it first. These are big decisions that have to be made together, or the court may have to make a ruling.
This whole process certainly can get complex. Take the time to look into your legal options, especially if you and your ex are in a dispute regarding rights or parenting time.