Legal Question in Family Law in North Carolina

What is the difference in joint legal custody and joint physical custody? exactly?

Asked on 9/14/13, 2:18 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Legal custody refers to decisions about the child's life - whether the child will be raised in a particular religion, where the child will go to school (public, private or religious) or access to school and medical records. Absent unusual circumstances, legal custody is almost always joint.

Physical custody refers to where the child is going to live on a daily basis and who will get the child ready for school, feed and clothe them. The child will spend a majority of time with one parent or the other. The parent who has the child a majority of time will have primary physical custody of the child and be the custodial parent. The other parent will have visitation or periods of partial custody and will be the non-custodial parent.

Physical custody will be relevant for the purpose of determining child support. The non-custodial parent will pay support to the primary custodial parent if the child spends at least 123 overnights with the primary parent. If each has about 123 overnights, the child support obligation can be reduced a little to factor in the extra time. See for a review of child support guidelines, worksheets and discussion of child support factors.

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Answered on 9/26/13, 10:29 pm

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