What is Custody? 

PHYSICAL CUSTODY

“Physical custody” is having your child live with you and providing a home for them.  Some judges call physical custody "residential responsibility." 

Sole physical custody

Sole physical custody means one parent is responsible for giving the child a home and taking care of them.  The other parent can still get "parenting time" or "visitation."  The court can decide what parenting time arrangement is in the child’s best interest.

Shared physical custody

Shared physical custody means both parents are responsible for giving the child a home. Each parent is responsible for taking care of the child. Shared physical custody means the child has frequent and continued contact with both parents.

LEGAL CUSTODY

“Legal custody” is having the right and responsibility to make major decisions about your child’s welfare.  Some judges call legal custody "decision-making responsibility."

Sole legal custody

Sole legal custody means only one parent has the right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child's welfare.  Major decisions are about things like medical care, education, discipline, and religion.

Shared legal custody

Shared legal custody means both parents have the right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child's welfare.  Parents decide about major things like medical care, education, discipline and religion together.

 

PARENTS HAVE DIFFERENT CUSTODY ARRANGEMENTS:

• One parent can have physical custody while they share legal custody with the other parent.

• One parent can have legal custody while they share physical custody with the other parent.

• Both parents can share both legal and physical custody.

 

Prepared for the Custody Awareness Collaborative by Attorney Jeff Wolf of MassLegalHelp and Community Legal Services and Counseling Center.  February, 2017.