Types of Custody
Custody comes in two forms -- legal and physical -- although terminology varies by state. A parent with legal custody has the right to make decisions about a child's upbringing, including religious training and schooling. Physical custody, on the other hand, speaks to the parent's right to provide a home for the child. In general, one parent may be granted sole legal and physical custody; either or both forms of custody may be shared between parents.
Parents with Physical Custody
Unless both parents are awarded physical custody, a child often lives with one parent most of the time. When this happens, that parent is referred to as the custodial parent; the other parent is known as the noncustodial parent and is usually awarded visitation and pays child support. The custodial parent is often described as having primary physical custody.