Legal custody refers to the right and obligation to make decisions pertaining to the child’s education, religion, medical care, and general well-being (it does not include minor day-to-day decisions). If decision-making authority is given to one parent, that parent has sole legal custody. If decision-making authority is shared, parents have joint or shared legal custody.
Physical custody refers to the caretaking rights and responsibilities for the child including providing food, shelter, and clothing. If a child spends a majority of his /her time living with one parent, that parent has primary physical custody. Under Maryland law, majority is defined as at least 2/3 of the ‘overnights’ during a calendar year. If a child spends less than 2/3 of the ‘overnights’ at either parent’s residence, then it is defined as joint physical custody.
Every legal and physical custody decision rests on “the best interest of the child” standard that is determined by the court if the parents cannot agree on a specific custodial arrangement.
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