For Illinois parents who are going through a divorce or are involved in a custody battle, it is important to know the difference between physical custody and legal custody. In cases where legal custody over children is in dispute, there are pros and cons to having full legal custody.
Physical custody and legal custody of children
When people think of child custody and parenting time, they are generally thinking of physical custody, which refers to where the child lives. The parent with whom the child is staying has physical custody of the child during that time. Another type of custody, though, is legal custody. The parent or parents with legal custody rights has the authority to make important life decisions for the child. For example, legal custody gives the parent the right to determine the child’s school, religion, education, health care and extracurricular activities.
Sole or joint legal custody
Just as with physical custody, legal custody may be sole or joint. Sole custody means one parent is the only one with that particular kind of custody. Joint custody means the parents share those custody rights. Generally speaking, courts are reluctant to grant sole custody on the theory that a child should have relationships with both of his or her parents. In a situation where one parent has sole legal custody, then that parent is the only one in charge of major life decisions for the child and the other parent has no legal authority to make these decisions.
Pros and cons of sole legal custody
Having sole legal custody over a child carries both pros and cons. Among the pros are lessened conflict because authority is vested in only one parent and the decision-making process is simpler. It also can create more consistency for the child. The cons of this arrangement, though, include that it may be a source of conflict or resentment and the parent with sole legal custody could be overwhelmed by the responsibility. In any custody case, the parents should try to determine what is best for the kids and work towards that.