Child custody is commonly thought of as deciding who the child lives with. However, there are actually two types of child custody. The first type is physical custody, which is what most people think of when they hear the words “child custody.” Whichever parent has physical custody of a child is the parent that the child lives with. However, physical custody can also be shared. In this case, the child takes turns visiting each parent.
The second type of custody is legal custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions related to a child, such as educational and medical decisions. This responsibility will commonly be shared between two parents. However, one parent may receive sole legal custody if the parents constantly battle over every decision, or if one parent is judged unfit to make major decisions.
Courts determine child custody based on what would support the child's best interests, and they look at a number of factors to decide this. Some of these factors include the child's own wishes (the older the child is, the more this is considered), the child’s relationships at school and in their community, the location of the child's close relatives, and each parent's behavior. The court's ultimate decision will be based off a combination of these and other factors.