How to Successfully Navigate Joint Legal Custody

In the instance of a divorce or separation, the court will sometimes award joint legal custody of children to both parents, as long as both are viewed as competent caretakers. Joint legal custody allows both parents to have equal access and decision-making power.

However, while many parents prefer to achieve joint legal custody, it can often become a challenging arrangement because both parties must come to agreements on all important choices for their child. These choices typically include a selection of schooling, medical, and after-school activity decisions for the child. For a couple that has separated due to differences, effectively making compromises can often be a difficult task. In order to be more fully informed about joint legal custody, continue reading the following article from About. It explains how joint legal custody works, as well as offers advice on reaching mutual decisions.

How to Handle Joint Legal Custody Disagreements

What to Do When Parents Who Share Joint Legal Custody Disagree

After separation, a court will make an initial determination on child custody. Courts will generally grant physical custody to one parent, often with visitation to the other parent, and legal custody to one or both parents. It is often the case that a court will give both parents joint legal custody.

Courts differ on the exact definition of joint legal custody. Generally, joint legal custody is defined as a parent’s shared right to determine how to raise a child, with specific consideration to day-to-day activities. Parents are expected to make decisions together, without the interference of a court.

Joint Legal Custody Decisions

Often parents must make bilateral decisions on issues such as:

  • Choice of schools (Note: If an educational decision involves religion, a court will not intervene, as religious choice is a First Amendment Right.)
  • Choice of doctors and medical decisions, such as whether to permit certain medical procedures
  • Choice of after-school activities

Pros and Cons of Joint Legal Custody

The Benefits of Joint Legal Custody Include:

  • An easier adjustment for children, as joint custody allows both parents to be involved in a meaningful way
  • Joint legal custody includes both parents, which is especially beneficial those who wish to parent collaboratively because it encourages parents to work together

The Difficulties Associated with Joint Legal Custody Include:

  • Parents must be able to effectively communicate and handle joint decisions involving a child
  • Parents often have different ideas about raising children, which might influence their day-to-day decisions

Alternatives for Situations Where Parents Who Share Joint Legal Custody Disagree

If parents cannot reach a mutual decision involving the day-to-day rearing of a child, a court will consider a few alternatives:

  • Deferring to a neutral third-party, agreed upon by both parties, which might be a stipulation in the custody agreement
  • Court-ordered mediation
  • If both alternatives fail, a court, in its discretion, may choose to intervene.

In addition, matters surrounding child custody may be modified at the court’s discretion. However, courts do not want to be involved with the day-to-day decisions of raising children. Prior to involving a court of law in decisions involving joint legal custody, parents should first consider the best interest of the child. Then if necessary, invite a neutral third-party to assist in reaching a decision.

It is best to work to overcome disputes without the need for mediation or court intervention, as involving another party will cost both parents time and money. Constant and effective communication is the surest pathway to success when it comes to dealing with joint legal custody decisions. However, sometimes intervention is necessary when it comes to your child’s livelihood, but should only be brought to court when all other resources have been exhausted.

If you would like assistance in reaching a decision with your ex-spouse, or would like to file for joint legal custody, please contact the attorneys at Revelli & Luzzo, in Worcester, MA. We are specialists in family law and would love to provide you with the legal help that you need.

Have you found any techniques that have helped you come to an agreement with someone who differs from you? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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