Legal custody is the right awarded to the parents to make important decisions regarding the child’s life after the parents divorce. Legal custody can be either joint or sole and it depends on the circumstances of the case. 

Generally, the courts tend to decide on joint legal custody to ensure that both parents are involved in the child’s decision making process. Legal custody is about making the decisions for your child regarding their:

  • Academic training;
  • Religious disciplining;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Cultural activity;
  • Healthcare; and
  • Psychological counseling.

What is Joint Legal Custody?

The courts usually prefer awarding joint legal custody to the parents after the divorce proceeding. This allows both parents to be active in the child’s life and make important decisions for them. For example, they can make a decision about whether to send their child to a public primary education or a private primary education. 

Joint legal custody is a way for both parents to collaborate and express their wishes in their child’s upbringing. It works better with  cases in which both parents are able and available to make important decisions. A joint legal custody works best when: 

  • Parents believe and agree that a joint legal custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child;
  • Parents are able to cooperate;
  • Both are active parents in raising their children;
  • Parents agree on fundamental values and;
  • When parents share fundamental values, it becomes easier for them to make decisions regarding their child’s school, extracurricular and religious arrangements.

What is Sole Legal Custody?

However, some parents can never come to an agreement on the decisions that are needed to be made for the child. They may disagree on certain things that are simple to decide. If the parents do not have an agreement, the judge may decide to give sole legal custody to one parent. This means that only one parent will be responsible for making the life decisions for the child. Another reason the judge may decide on sole custody is: 

  • The parents do not live relatively close by;
  • The parent is abusive or neglectful and;
  • The parent is not involved in the child’s day-to-day life and does not spend time with the child.

Having sole legal custody of the child means you are responsible for making all the decisions regarding the child’s day-to-day activities. Sole legal custody also implies that you do not need to take into consideration the other parent’s ideas or opinions about raising the child. However, most states do prefer joint legal custody and take into account the best interests of the child.

What are Some Examples of Joint and Sole Legal Custody?

In a joint legal custody case, after the mother and father are divorced, they share legal custody of the child. This means that they both share the responsibility for making the child’s decision regarding his or her upbringing. However in a case of sole legal custody, either the mother or the father share the sole responsibility of making the decisions.

For example, if the father is abusive the mother can request sole legal custody of the child from the court. In another example, if the mother is neglectful, the father can request the court to grant him sole legal custody of the child. This type of custody excludes the one parent that is not fit to do the job. It diminishes their legal right to participle in the decision-making process.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Joint Legal Custody?

Ideally, it is in the child’s best interest for the parents to work together and consult each other in making major decisions about their child. This communication between the parents prevents the child from developing isolation and other insecurities caused by divorce or separation. 

Having both parent’s care and love is key for a healthy mental growth for the child. A child who sees their parents interact positively typically grows a healthy self- esteem. Furthermore, the burdens of parenthood are high, sharing the responsibilities will be more manageable for each parent.

However, there are also disadvantages to joint legal custody. Some parents are not able to work together and this can create difficulties for the child especially when it comes to making decisions regarding their lifestyle. 

Some divorces end on a bad note, and dealing with the kids ex-spouse becomes unbearable. Therefore, the court will intervene and determine a decision  based on the best interests of the child

Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with Legal Custody Issues?

If you or your spouse are going through a divorce and have children, it may be useful to come up with an agreement plan for custody issues

If you are unable to come to an agreement it would be better to reach out to a local child custody lawyer to assist with the process. Ultimately in the end, parents should put the interests of their child above theirs.