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Legal Custody versus Physical Custody

In Vermont, parents can be awarded legal custody, physical custody, or both. Legal custody is a parent’s right to make important decisions regarding their child, such as choices pertaining to the child’s health, education, religion, and the like. Physical custody refers to a parent’s right to have their child live with them. When making a decision regarding legal and physical custody, courts will always do what is in the best interests of a child.


Joint Custody versus Sole Custody

Another aspect of legal and physical custody involves determining whether parents will have joint or sole custodial rights. When joint legal custody is awarded, then both parents will have equal decision-making responsibilities regarding their children. Parents will be expected to communicate with one another and make decisions together pertaining to their children’s welfare. When joint physical custody is granted, then both parents will share equal (or close to equal) time with their children. This ensures that the child will have frequent and continuing contact with both their parents. Joint legal and physical custody is the preferred custodial arrangement, as it is results in the least amount of stress and change for both parents and especially for the children.

However, there are times when sole custody is granted. Courts may award one parent sole physical custody while still allowing both joint legal custody. The non-custodial parent will still be entitled to regular visits with their children. Courts may also award one parent with both sole legal and physical custody of their children. Yet, even when this happens, the non-custodial parent will still have visitation rights and will still be allowed to access information about their children.


What Factors Play a Role in Determining Child Custody?

When making custody decisions in Vermont, courts will review several factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Relationship between parent and child
  • History of child abuse
  • Financial situation of each parent
  • Proximity of each parent’s home to the child’s school
  • Stability of each parent’s living environment


Can Courts Change Existing Child Custody Arrangements?

Yes, Vermont courts can change existing custody arrangements, but only if it’s in the best interest of the child. Courts can choose to either extend a parent’s current custodial rights or remove parental rights, but sometimes these decisions are not made fairly. One parent may try to paint a negative picture of the other by fabricating information.

Fortunately, parents have a right to seek legal help to ensure their rights are retained. If you need help with changing a custody agreement or any other custody matter, schedule a free consultation today with an experienced Vermont child custody lawyer.