July 8, 2013

What does “Physical Custody” mean?

106 - Ben's HomeAt some point in your divorce, you and your spouse will have to decide your designation for physical custody.  Many divorcing couples can get caught up on this designation.  In the state of Minnesota, physical custody refers to the right to make decisions about the routine day-to-day activities and where the child lives.

Physical custody can be designated as “sole” to one spouse or the other, or “joint” wherein the routine, daily care and control, and the residence of the child is structured between the parents.  Usually a designation of joint physical custody means that the children are spending significant time with each of the parents, including over nights.  It does not necessarily mean 50/50.

The concerns for many parents come when there is the belief that a designation of physical custody will mean that their rights will be limited to their children.  Collaborative Divorce remedies these concerns by using a Parenting Plan.

In Collaborative Divorce, the spouses meet with a Neutral Child Specialist, a Mental Health Professional trained in family systems, child development and research on children and divorce.  With the Neutral Child Specialist, the parents will work through a Parenting Plan as detailed as the parents want it to be.  It will contain the essentials:  parenting time, pick-ups and drop-offs, when the children are old enough to be left alone, holiday schedules, sick days, etc.

Because these issues are addressed in a Parenting Plan, if a dispute arises, a mediator, mental health professional, or as a last resort, the court will use the Parenting Plan to clear up any ambiguity.  This leaves the details sometimes argued through the court system in the hands of the parents, rather than the interpretation of a third party.

Kimberly Miller,JD, MA, LAMFT

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