Temporary legal custody of a child refers to a temporary child-custody order through which a court gives one parent custody of a child on a temporary basis during a divorce, explains Lawyers.com. FindLaw specifies that legal custody includes the right to make decisions about crucial matters in a child's life.
When parents share legal custody, both the mother and father have the right to make decisions about the child's health care, education and religion, according to FindLaw. By contrast, courts often grant physical custody of a child to one parent.
DivorceNet states that physical custody refers to the place where children live most of the time and notes that parents can share physical custody as well as legal custody. The other parent has visitation rights determined either by the court or by the parents themselves. Sole physical custody can give one parent the right to move out of the area in which the other parent lives, as discussed by DivorceNet. Joint physical custody is one way in which courts make it more likely that children see both parents on a regular basis.
Lawyers.com notes that temporary child-custody orders help parents maintain family stability during the long process of divorce and prevent a parent from moving away with a child.