Joint Legal Custody

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What Is Joint Legal Custody?

Legal custody refers to an adult’s right to make legal decisions on behalf of a child. These rights usually belong to the legal parent, such as a biological parent, stepparent, foster parent, or guardian. A person with legal custody has the right to make important determinations regarding the child’s upbringing, such as those involving education, religion, disciplinary measures, and other factors.

Thus, "joint" legal custody is when these rights and authorities are split between the parents or guardians. This may happen in very specific joint custody circumstances as approved by a judge. All custody determinations must be made in conformity with the "child’s best interest" standard.

When Is Joint Legal Custody Granted?

Joint legal custody is not always immediately granted in every child custody case. In many instances, it might make more sense logistically to grant legal custody to only one parent. This is usually granted to the parent with primary physical custody of the child. However, in other instances, it might be helpful to grant joint legal custody if:

In a joint legal custody arrangement, both parents will have equal access to the child’s records, such as school records and medical records. Thus, both parents are able to contribute when it comes to making major decisions on the child’s behalf. However, more day-to-day practical decisions (such as what the child will wear that day) will be made by the parent who has physical custody at the time.

What If We Would Like to Agree upon Joint Legal Custody?

In many cases, joint legal custody is granted because the parents have agreed upon such an arrangement in advance. For instance, it’s common for parents to work out the details of a joint legal custody arrangement during family mediation sessions. Once the details are all worked out, the parents or guardians may submit their decisions to a judge, who can finalize the items into a formal child custody arrangement.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Joint Legal Custody Matters?

Obtaining joint legal custody depends on many different factors. You may wish to hire a qualified family law attorney in your area if you would like guidance and representation during any child custody proceedings. An experienced attorney will be able to inform you of the laws in your area, and can also explain your rights as a parent or guardian.

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Last Modified: 07-23-2014 03:13 PM PDT

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