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What does it mean to have legal custody of a child?

Child custody is one of the most important and difficult matters that divorcing Missouri parents must deal with when they choose to end their marriages. That is because they face the difficult task of balancing the needs of providing their children with love and support while sharing those children between households. Because children can have very different emotional, physical, and psychological needs, child custody arrangements can vary based on different families.

As readers of this legal blog may know, child custody involves two different elements: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is important because it concerns where a child will live and which parent will have responsibility over the child's day-to-day needs. Parents can share physical custody or it can be granted to one parent.

Legal custody, however, does not relate to where a child lives. A parent does not have to have physical custody of their child to exercise legal custody over them. When a parent has legal custody of their child then that parent has a say in important child rearing decisions such as whether the child receives certain medical treatments or if the child is exposed to a particular religion.

Getting a divorce does not mean that a parent has to give up their rights to have meaningful involvement in their child's life. Physical custody and legal custody are two different aspects of child custody that parents must prioritize when the end their marriages. With the help of their divorce and family law attorneys, parents can find positive ways to support their kids and protect their rights as their marriages are dissolved.

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