Except in extreme cases, parents who go through divorce will be awarded joint legal custody. This is the authority to make important legal, educational, and medical decisions on behalf of your children. Judges tend to award joint legal custody unless the parents’ attorneys show that the parties cannot agree or that one parent is not fit to make those decisions. So now that you have joint legal custody, what do you do about it?
Joint Legal Custody for the Custodial Parent
If you are the parent with whom the children will be living most of the time, it may not feel like much has changed. You will still be the parent deciding when the kids go to bed or what they have for dinner most of the time. That is, except when the non-custodial parent has visitation. Legal custody doesn’t give you the right to direct how the other person parents.
Where you will see a change is in the big decisions. Even though you and your ex no longer have to discuss housekeeping or paying the bills, if you share joint legal custody, you will still need to talk about those big decisions regarding your children. So if your son is having trouble in school, you and your ex will have to have serious conversations about whether to move him to another class or get a tutor. If an emergency happens you will need to contact your ex as your second phone call (after 9-1-1, if needed). He or she needs to be involved in those decisions right away.
Joint Legal Custody for the Non-Custodial Parent
If you aren’t the one the kids go home with every night, you have more work to do after the Judgment of Divorce is entered. That’s because most of the time, you won’t be the one on hand to hear about the problems. You will need to make sure doctors, child care providers, and school administrators know how to reach you and that you have authority to make decisions about the children. This could be as simple as calling and giving them a contact number, or as complicated as providing them a certified copy of your Judgment of Divorce. Either way, it is important that you have access to the information you need to make decisions about your child.
After a high-conflict divorce, your ex may try to cut you out of parent-teacher conferences, doctor’s appointments, or other deciding moments for your children. Stand up for your rights by being proactive. If you still are getting left out, contact family law attorney Lisa J. Schmidt to file a Motion to Enforce Judgment and get access.
Joint Legal Custody is an easy argument for lawyers and decision for judges, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy for you and your ex to make work. Joint legal custody is one of the top reasons why you and your ex need to work on your relationship even after the Judgment of Divorce is entered. As long as you have children you are going to need to cooperate to make big decisions together for them. If joint legal custody isn’t working for your family, contact Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, for a free consultation.