Legal v. Physical Custody

Legal Custody

Legal Custody deals with the big picture issues for the child. The big picture issues include but are not limited to what religion the child is to be raised, where the child will go to school, what doctors the child will see or what medicine the child take, are brace for medical or cosmetic reasons (and therefore who has to pay for them). It involves the future of the child.

Joint Legal Custody v. Sole Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is favored in Maryland. The Court wants both parents to be involved and have a say in the legal custody issues of the child. This inclusion can be as little as one parent telling the other what is going to happen and the other parent saying, “ok”. Or it can be much more input by both parties. Legal Custody in contrast grants one party the sole responsibility and decision making authority. It also requires that you keep the other parent informed of all decisions and opportunities in advance of those decisions. In many instances Sole Legal Custody is more of a burden than Joint Legal Custody. Sole legal custody is usually resenved for cases in which the parents simply cannot communicate at all.

Physical Custody

Physical Custody simply involves who has the child when and where. The parent who has the child on a particular day has the responsibility and authority to make all or the day to day decisions for the minor child, including, when the child gets up, what they eat, what the wear, how and if they are disciplined, etc…


Some Court Orders differrentiate Physical Custody and Visitation, however, these are really interchangeable. Again it simply goes back to who has the child when and where.

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