The Difference Between Sole And Joint Legal Custody
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By Jessica James, Guest Author - October 04, 2014

zzzzzcustody.jpgSole Legal Custody is easiest explained, as one parent having the right to make decisions about their child's upbringing. A parent with sole legal custody will carry the obligation of making decisions about what school a child will attend, what religion the child will be raised with or if any at all, and any and any medical decisions.

These specific obligations are specific to this parent only, and do not require the opinion or values of the other parent. In many cases, with parents who agree on their own custody terms outside of court, they have joint legal custody which is where the decision making is shared by both parents.

When parents share joint legal child custody, they have an agreement which states that their opinion and desire is required by law to be met, and supported by the divorce decree. If one parent should make any decision without the other parent and exclude him or her, the excluded parent can legally enforce the other parent through the court to do so.  

Most often in divorce cases that are agreed upon amicably, the two parties share legal custody for the children. They are deemed to be responsible enough to both weigh options and make a uniformed decision, in the best interest of the children.

When divorce is not amicable, and there remains uncertainty that both parents have the best interest of the child, then one parent is awarded Sole Legal Custody. 

In some cases, it is possible for both parents to share joint legal custody while one parents has sole physical custody. Meaning that while the child lives in one parents residence primarily, the decisions of education, welfare and health matters are made together. 

Examples of decisions that are made with Sole Legal Custody:

  • Education and/or Childcare
  • Religion
  • Psychiatric, psychological, counseling and therapy
  • Medical Decisions 
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
  • Traveling 
  • Residence 

Parent A wants child to go to Catholic School. Parent B wants child to go to public school. Parent A has Sole Legal Custody, therefore Parent B has no say. 

Parent A wants son to be circumcised, parent B does not. Parent A has Sole Legal Custody, therefore Parent B has no say. 

Parent B wants child to go to church and study a certain religion, Parent A disagrees. Since parent A has Sole Legal Custody, parent B is not permitted to teach the child their religion.

With Joint Legal Custody these decision below are made together:

  • Education and/or Childcare
  • Religion
  • Psychiatric, psychological, counseling and therapy
  • Medical Decisions 
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
  • Traveling 
  • Residence 

Parent A and Parent B have equal say, and decide together. If a disagreement arises that can not be settled, then the court can become involved.  

One important reminder to all parents concerning joint or sole legal custody. Any parent of a child whether they have sole or joint, still has access to their child's records. If you do not have joint custody, and are a parent with visitation, although you can not make medical or educational decisions, you still have a right to your child's medical and educational records. 

If at anytime you want to know how your child is doing in school, and want copies of report cards or attendance records, you have that right. Furthermore, in matters of medical records, you as a parent can walk into your child's doctors office and gain medical records about visits, medications, or any immunizations or medical treatment your child has received. If the parent with Sole Legal custody withholds these documents, you can obtain them yourself. 

That is Sole and Joint Custody in a nutshell. 

 

 

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