Understanding legal custody

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2022 | Child Custody |

If you have a child, you know that a big part of your job as a parent is making decisions about how to raise your child. Some decisions have to do with day-to-day matters, such as whether your child should wear a coat today or what to serve for dinner tonight. Other decisions, however, are much more significant and can have an impact on your child for many years to come.

What is legal custody?

When parents are raising a child together, they often make both small and big decisions regarding the child together. When parents separate, things change. In addition to determining physical custody, courts will decide on legal custody and award decision-making power to one or both parents. Unless there is a good reason not to, courts will award joint legal custody, giving both parents the ability to make major decisions concerning the child.

Generally, even in a joint legal custody situation, the smaller, every day decisions are made by whichever parent the child is with at the time. However, New York parents with joint legal custody will have to come together to make the more major decisions regarding the child, including decisions concerning the child’s health, education and religious upbringing.

How is legal custody discussed in a parenting agreement?

A parenting agreement will address both physical and legal child custody matters. It will specify that both parents need to discuss any substantial decisions relating to the child. In an emergency situation, a parent may act alone and make a decision independently from the other parent. However, if that parent would not have been allowed to make that decision alone under ordinary circumstances, they will need to inform the other parent of the decision within a reasonable time.

If you are in the process of divorcing your child’s other parent, consider speaking with a divorce attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you and your ex work out an agreement that serves the best interests of your child.


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