What is the Difference Between Physical and Legal Custody?

In Utah, there are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the rights, privileges, duties and powers of a parent.  Legal custody includes your right to make decisions for or on behalf of your child.  Utah courts presume that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the child, except in cases where there is domestic violence in the home, special physical or mental needs, significant physical distance between the parents, or any other factor that the court considers relevant.  If you are awarded joint legal custody, you will have the right to be involved in major life decisions that concern your child, such as schooling, religious upbringing and medical treatment.

Physical custody refers to where the child is actually residing.  Utah courts presume that sole physical custody is in the best interest of the minor child.  Joint physical custody requires the child to stay overnight with each parent for more than 30% of the year.  Even when the parents are awarded joint physical custody, one parent typically has slightly more parent-time.  The parent with more parent-time is designated as the primary caretaker, and the primary caretaker’s residence is deemed the primary physical residence of the child.