Going through a divorce is a difficult and emotional process, especially if you and your spouse have a child. At some point, you will face having to negotiate custody for your child. And while you may not agree with all your soon-to-be ex’s parenting decisions, unless he or she poses a real threat to your child’s well-being, you likely will share custody time with your child.

When you start to understand more about how child custody works in North Carolina, you’ll quickly realize there are two types: physical custody and legal custody. So, what exactly is the difference between those?

Physical custody

Physical custody is the physical time your child will spend with you versus your former spouse. More and more, parents share joint physical custody of their children. That means the children spend close to equal time with each parent on a regular basis.

Legal custody

Legal custody refers to parents having a say over decisions about a child’s upbringing. This includes what school the child will go to, who will provide childcare when needed, how medical decisions will be made, what religion the child will be raised in and more.

Parents who share joint legal custody make important decisions on how to raise their children together. Most often, courts favor parents sharing joint legal custody. If you want sole legal custody for your children, you’ll have to show the court how that is in your child’s best interests.

Your divorce attorney is a good resource for understanding the specifics of child custody agreements and can help you get the right type of custody agreement to work for your children and you.