Very few people are an expert on divorce when they first file. After all, Ohio family law is complicated and you probably never saw a need to learn about it in the first place. But now that you are here it is important to educate yourself on at least a few important topics. Child custody is a good place to start.

Whether from your friends and family’s personal experiences, you may already be familiar with a few key custody terms. Joint and sole custody are maybe some of the most recognizable. But what about physical and legal custody?

Who does your child stay with?

Physical custody refers to who the child actually lives with. If the court grants you sole physical custody, then your child will live primarily with just you. Your child might also have visitation hours or days with his or her other parent. While maintaining a relationship with both parents is usually important for kids, visitation might not be appropriate for everyone’s situation.

On the other hand, you could share joint physical custody. This means that your child would live with both you and your ex, spending roughly equal amounts of time at each house. Joint custody requires a significant commitment to co-parenting. You will also want to make sure that you and your ex live close enough together to make this type of arrangement work.

Who gets to make the decisions?

If you have sole physical custody, you might assume that you also get to make all the important decisions about your child’s upbringing. This includes things like religious upbringing, acceptable medical care, and where he or she will go to school. This may be the case if you have both sole physical and legal custody. However, parents can still share joint legal custody even if only one parent has physical custody.

This is because the vast majority of parents who only have visitation with their children are still great parents who are invested in their children’s lives. Maybe they simply live too far away to share custody, or it is otherwise in their child’s best interests to stay with just one parent. If this is your situation, sharing joint legal custody allows you to still play a major role in your child’s upbringing.

Which arrangement is best?

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all child custody agreement. Each family in Ohio must decide what works best for them. In some situations, a judge is in charge of making that decision. Either way, it is vital to remember this — your child’s best interests are most important.

But how can you be certain that everyone else is as concerned about those best interests as you are? Divorce can be a time of emotional turmoil, making it difficult to make the best possible decisions. When you need to be certain that your child custody agreement will truly reflect your situation, you should be certain to work alongside an experienced attorney.