What’s the difference between legal and physical custody?

Non-lawyers often use the terms “custody” and “placement” interchangeably but they are two separate concepts:

  1. Custody is the legal right to make major decisions about your children – their school choice, the religion they worship, their primary doctors, etc.
  2. Placement is the ability to have your children with you to the exclusion of the other parent. The law presumes that parents will have “joint custody” meaning they must make major decisions about their children together as co-parents.