Child custody is a legal term used to describe the relationship each parent has with their minor child. Custody decisions must be made in the event of a divorce, as well as when a child’s parents are not legally married at the time of the child’s birth.

Finding the right Brooklyn child custody lawyer—one who fights tirelessly and negotiates for your best outcome—is important. Alatsas Law Firm has earned the reputation of being one of the best child custody law firms in Brooklyn, and attorney Theodore Alatsas is committed to fighting for the rights of children and their parents.

Understanding the Differences Between Physical and Legal Custody

There are two general types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody is the responsibility of providing the child with a home. It is sometimes known as residential custody. A parent who has physical custody of their child provides a place to sleep, food, access to household goods and utilities, and an overall nurturing environment for the child in their home. Parents who do not have physical custody of their children may have visitation, court-ordered time together to maintain consistent relationships with them.

Legal custody is the responsibility to make important decisions on the child’s behalf, such as choosing the school the child will attend, determining the religion in which the child will be raised, and making medical decisions for the child.

Physical custody and legal custody exist independently of each other, though a parent can have both. Having physical custody of a child does not guarantee that a parent has legal custody of them and vice versa.

Understanding the Differences Between Joint Custody and Sole Custody

Physical custody and legal custody can be awarded as joint custody or sole custody.

Joint custody is typically the preferred way for the court to award a child’s parents custody. With joint custody, both parents have the rights and responsibilities associated with raising a child. Joint physical custody means that the child lives with one parent 50 percent of the time and the other parent 50 percent of the time. In an arrangement like this, however, one parent may still be required to pay child support to the other to help with the costs of providing for the child.

Joint legal custody means that both parents have the right to make important decisions on their child’s behalf. It also means that they must agree to decisions before any legal action, such as authorizing surgery or transferring the child to a new school, can occur. For joint legal custody to be possible, parents must be willing and able to work cooperatively to make beneficial decisions on their child’s behalf.

In arrangements where the child spends more time living with one parent than the other, that parent has sole physical custody of the child, and the other parent has visitation. A parent with sole physical custody of his or her child is typically the parent who can claim the child as a dependent on his or her tax return, but the other parent may claim the child if such permission is written into the parents’ divorce settlement or if the parents submit Form 8332 with their tax returns. Only one parent may claim the child as a dependent.

Sole legal custody means that one parent has decision-making power regarding the child’s healthcare, education, and other “big” issues in the child’s life. The other parent may make small decisions during his or her custodial time with the child, and he or she may have an input to these bigger decisions, but ultimately, the parent with sole legal custody has the final say regarding any legal decisions involving the child.

You Need an Experienced New York Child Custody Attorney

If you are dealing with child custody concerns, an experienced attorney will provide you with much-needed legal advice to help you through the process. Seeking assistance as soon as possible is important because custody agreements are legally binding for the stability of the child. This means that changing the agreement will require you to prove that there has been a notable material change in circumstances, such as one parent moving to another state and wanting to take the child with them.

Alatsas Law Firm is conveniently located for residents of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. Our ground floor office is handicapped accessible with a subway stop and two bus lines nearby. If you require assistance with a child custody issue, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.