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Legal custody tells us who has the right to make decisions for your child.  The types of decisions include: medical treatment, education, travel, and religious practices.

Joint Legal vs. Sole Legal Custody

Joint legal custody means that both parents can make decisions regarding medical treatment, education, travel, and religious practices. Joint custody imposes a duty to discuss these issues with the other parent.  The law does not require you to agree.  In other words, you do not have to seek the other parent’s permission to baptize your child or to seek medical treatment, but as a joint legal custodian you must communicate with each other about both of these decisions. For non-emergency decisions, the communication should occur before the action is taken. If you two cannot agree, then you have different options depending on the nature of the action desired.

Sole legal custody means that the parent with custody makes these decisions with or without consulting with the non-custodial parent. Sole legal custody is rare and can actually be dangerous for a child. Without legal custody, a parent  may not be able to make decisions for the child in an emergency. When sole legal custody is awarded, it is usually done as a result of a serious concern about the non-custodial parent’s ability to responsibly participate in parenting decisions. For example, the non-custodial parent is addicted to drugs, incarcerated, suffering from untreated mental health issues, or has a history of violence towards the child or other parent.

Why you should be mediating legal custody

Legal custody significantly impacts your child’s day-to-day life . In Divorce Mediation, we will explore how each of you wishes to handle legal custody issues. Together, we can come up with solutions to the various legal custody issues that are likley to arise in the future. Some of those issues we will be able to solve during your sessions.  And for some issues, we will make a plan for how to resolve them if they should arise. The primary goal will be to help prepare the two of you to work together to raise your child without having to seek court intervention and with minimal conflict between you. If you and your ex could use help reaching a compromise, schedule your free phone call now.

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