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What is legal custody?

On Behalf of | Jan 16, 2023 | Family Law

When parents are going through a divorce, they typically think of custody as who their child will live with. A parent who shares custody with his or her ex must divide the time the child is at each house. Generally speaking, both parents usually like to share custody, but you also have situations with sole custody, where the child lives with the same parent all the time.

However, all of this just refers to physical custody. This is a very important part of the process; you need to understand how it works if you are going through a divorce. That said, you don’t want to assume that this is the only thing you should think about. There is also the legal side of custody of your children; you must know how this works and what rights and obligations it holds.

The right to make decisions

Perhaps the easiest way to think about legal custody is that it gives you the power to make decisions for someone else. In this case, that person is your child, who is still a minor. Decisions that you make for them could include things like:

  • Which doctor to choose if they still need pediatric care.
  • What medical treatments to get, including things like vaccines.
  • What religious group to be a part of and/or follow.
  • Where to attend school.
  • When and where to open a bank account or other financial accounts.

Parents need to be able to do these things to assist their children at all stages in their life. Divorced parents still have to cooperate, in this regard, if they share legal custody, no matter where the child is living at the time. Just because you have physical custody doesn’t mean that you can do something that is against the other parent’s wishes, potentially violating their legal custody rights.

What if you cannot agree?

Of course, you can imagine just how complicated that can make your situation when the two of you can’t agree on an important issue. Be sure you know what legal options you have.