If you have children under 18, you’ll need to speak to “custody” in your divorce agreement—specifically, “legal custody” and “physical custody.” These two terms are antiquated ways of referring to two of the most basic things you do for your kids as a parent: make decisions for them and plan their schedule.
When you speak to “physical custody,” you’re clarifying your parenting schedule with your kids as you move from one to two homes.
When you speak to “legal custody,” you’re clarifying how you, as parents, will make important decisions for your children in the future. Important decisions would include, for example, what school they’ll go to, whether they’ll have a particular medical procedure, or what religion they’ll be raised in. Important decisions would not (from a legal perspective) include day-to-day decisions like bedtime, TV watching, or what to eat for dinner. Each parent is in charge of those decisions independently when the kids are with them.
When you speak to “physical custody,” you’re clarifying your parenting schedule with your kids as you move from one to two homes. Think first of what kind of schedule will work for you and for your kids on regular weekdays and weekends. Once you have a sense for that, consider how you’ll share time with your kids on holidays and other special days for your family. You’ll include all of these details in your ultimate agreement, but your agreement should also give you the freedom to improvise on your schedule whenever both parents are in agreement.
The custody section of your ultimate agreement will often speak to additional topics, like international travel, the children’s last name, the requirement to share all information related to the child with the other parent, each parent’s right to attend all child-related appointments, events and activities, and so on. Your attorney or mediator will take you through those topics in your work together.
Take a look at a pretty thorough Parenting Plan used by the courts, which speaks to both legal and physical custody, here.