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Getting to know legal and physical custody arrangements

If you're a parent going through a custody battle, then it is in your best interests to understand the kinds of custody a judge could award and what they mean for your situation. There are two forms of custody in New York, physical and legal.

When you're seeking custody, it's likely that you'll want at least legal custody. Legal custody gives you the right to make decisions about your child's life, like what kind of medical care your child needs or what religion they'll grow up in. Without legal custody, you'll have no say in what your child does or does not do; it will be the other parent's job to decide.

Physical custody, as it sounds, is describing who has their child in their physical presence. This is also known as residential custody. Whichever parent has the child in the home is the residential custodian. In most cases, judges want to see parents share physical custody, but the parent who has the child over 50 percent of the time is considered the custodial party while the other has visitation rights and is a noncustodial party.

It is normal for parents to work out parenting plans and arrangements for their children to spend time with both parents in both homes. It is unusual, unless there are difficult circumstances, for a judge to order that one parent doesn't see a child or loses legal or physical custody rights. Typically, judges want to see children with each parent around 50 percent of the time, which is known as joint custody. This is usually the healthiest option for a child.

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