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Legal Custody: Why Does It Matter?
The majority of parents who come through our office are concerned with finding the best physical or residential custody arrangement for their child. Fewer parents consider the importance of legal custody.
Physical custody, as you might expect, relates to where the children live. In some situations, parents arrange for joint physical custody, where the children split their time equally between both parties. If that schedule isn’t realistic, one parent may have primary residential custody while the other has a visitation schedule.
A similar set of options exist for legal custody. Legal custody is essentially the ability to make important decisions about your child’s every-day life. This includes their schooling, medical care, religious upbringing, and extra-curricular activities. More and more frequently, these decisions can also span issues like cultural upbringing and language ability.
It is important to be able to make long-term decisions about your child’s welfare, but you also need to stay focused on which arrangement is best for your child.
In many cases, legal custody is awarded jointly to both parents. When parents share legal custody of their child, they are expected to work together and consult with one-another prior to making any major decisions.
While this type of teamwork and communication is an important aspect of co-parenting, joint legal custody isn’t always an appropriate arrangement. Sharing legal custody can be difficult in situations where one parent is frequently out of contact. It also may not be appropriate in situations where the parents are extremely contentious or unwilling to cooperate.
Legal custody is important for you to consider if you’re in the process of determining custody for your child. When deciding between joint and sole legal custody, you should consider the realities of your individual circumstances and what is best for your child’s future.