If you are getting a divorce and you have children, part of your divorce proceedings should be to set up child custody issues, as well as visitation. There are a lot of things that you and your former spouse are going to need to deal with when it comes to custody. One of them is knowing that the difference between the different forms of custody.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
While the term custody is usually thrown around and used interchangeably, child custody actually is separated out to a whole lot of things. For example, there is physical custody. With physical custody, the child lives with you, at least for the majority of the time. Legal custody means that the parent with custody will make the decisions for the child. When you are figuring out legal custody, you may also want to make sure that you dictate who gets to claim the child as a dependent on the federal taxes, since both parents can't do it. You may also want to make sure that you specify which parent has to keep your child covered through their health insurance. Make sure that these things are written into your decree so that there are no questions later.
With sole custody, your child is going to live with just one parent, full time. Your former spouse may have visitation, either supervised or unsupervised, depending on what the reason for you to have sole custody is, but other than that, your child lives with you, and you have the right to make all the decisions for your child.
With shared custody, you and your former spouse will both share the custody of your child. That means that you are still co-parenting and making decisions jointly for your child. One of you may hold the physical custody of your child, which means that the child's primary residence is with you, but your child may also live with their other parent for some period of time. For example, you may have the physical custody of your child during the school year, but the child may go to their other parent's house on many weekends as well as during various school holidays.
If you are getting divorced and you have children, one of the things you need to do is make sure that you work on a good custody plan with your former spouse for your child.