Legal custody refers to a parent of divorce or separation having the right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children. Legal custody also relates to the general welfare of the child in the context of child custody and divorce. Legal custody is very different than physical custody. Therefore, it is important for the parent to distinguish between legal custody and physical custody prior to making a request for legal custody to know what legal custody fully entails. For a legal definition of legal custody, you will want to consult an attorney in your area to learn about legal custody.
Although this is not a legal definition of legal custody, in general, a parent with legal custody has legal authority to make decisions for his/her child on issues such as education, medical care, dental care, and religion.
There are typically two types of legal custody the court recognizes in the context of child custody and divorce: (1) sole legal custody and (2) joint legal custody. In the context of custody disputes, parents are usually awarded joint legal custody unless one of the parents is deemed unfit, which would imply that it would not be in the best interest of the child for that parent to have legal custody.
Joint Legal Custody
Parents who have joint legal custody will share in the responsibility of making decisions and raising the child. According to California Family Code section 3003, "joint legal custody" means both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child."
Sole Legal Custody
A parent with sole legal custody will make the decisions regarding the upbringing of the child. According to the California Family Code section 3006, "sole legal custody" means that one parent shall have the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child."