Legal Custody: Being able to make decisions for the child, such as medical decisions, educational decisions, living arrangements and location, etc.
Physical Custody: Where the child actually lives, eats, and sleeps.
Sole Custody: One parent has both legal and physical custody and the other parent has only visitation. The sole custody parent typically has the child about 90% of the time, makes all decisions concerning the child, and has final say on everything. The other parent might have every other weekend visitation, no visitation at all, or some other scheduled visitation decided on by the court. The other parent can make no (ITALICS) decisions for the child's upbringing.
Joint Legal Custody: Both parents have an equal say in making decisions on education, medical, and other issues for the child. If parents with joint legal custody have a dispute over a major decision, then the court will make the decision. They will typically side with the custodial parent (the one who has primary physical custody) making the practice of joint custody meaningless.
Joint Physical Custody: One or both of the parents is named primary custodian. The time can be divided in whatever way the parents or the courts choose, from every other weekend, to 50/50.
Combinations of Custody: Typical combinations are joint legal, but sole physical; joint physical with sole legal; or sole custody all together. The court may also order joint legal with joint physical, but usually won't do this unless both parents are in agreement and can cooperate in raising the child in this arrangement.
Temporary Custody: Temporary custody almost always ends up becoming permanent custody. This happens many times in divorce proceedings. For example, the mother may be awarded temporary custody during the divorce proceedings, which often last anywhere from 6 months to 1 year or more. During this time, the children have been living primarily with the mother and have an establish routine based around their mother's scedule. Because of this, most courts will grant the mother permanent custody of the children so as not to disrupt their established schedule.