Custody Lingo: What Does it all Mean?

Custody hearings can be stressful without the confusion of what certain legal terms mean. To help ease the custody process, here are a few helpful vocabulary terms.

Temporary Custody – Determines who will have custody of the child while the parties wait for a court hearing. A best interests standard will be applied to determine temporary custody.

Legal Custody – The power to make major decisions concerning the child such as medical care, education, and religion. Legal custody has nothing to do with where the child resides.

  • Joint Legal Custody – where both parties have to agree to major decisions in the child’s life.
  • Sole Legal Custody – where only one party can decide major decisions in the child’s life.

Physical Custody – Refers to where a child will reside.

  • Sole Physical Custody – If an individual has sole physical custody the child will live and reside solely with that parent. The other parent may have visitation rights.
  • Shared Physical Custody – In a shared physical custody situation, the child splits times between both parent’s residences. However, it does NOT mean that time is split evenly or 50/50. On the other hand, the non-custodial parent does have the child at least 90 days in a calendar year.
  • Primary Physical Custody – In a primary physical custodial relationship, the custodial parent has the child the majority of the time. The non-custodial parent has the child less than 90 days in a calendar year.

If you have any more questions about the custody process, please feel free to give us a call at 757-656-1000 or send us an email at We can set your “Legal Strategy Meeting” today. You can also visit us at our website: Our attorneys will be happy to answer any questions you may have. We want you to be informed and we believe more information = less stress.  See you soon.