Many people think of child custody as a blanket legal issue that is applied in one fell swoop. But in reality, there are plenty of intricate situations when applying child custody -- and child custody also comes in many different forms.
Child custody has two forms, and then those forms are applied in two different ways. Physical custody is one of the forms, and it relates to a parent's right to have the child live with them. Legal custody, on the other hand, relates to a parent's ability to dictate how his or her child lives, what education they receive, what religion they believe, what healthcare they receive, and so on.
Obviously, both of these forms of custody are important and so both parents will want some form of the custody. This is where the forms of child custody are applied. There is shared (or joint) custody, and there is sole custody. As the names imply, shared or joint custody means that both parents have that form of child custody. Sole custody means only one parent have the right to have the child live with them or to make their decisions.
Usually joint physical custody is only awarded if the parents live close together. Joint legal custody can also be a difficult arrangement, as it inherently involves two divorced parents trying to work together to make life decisions on behalf of their child.
What we are trying to say is this: child custody is complicated, and it behooves any splitting spouses to talk things over with an attorney.