Legal Custody

The parent(s) with Legal Custody makes important decisions for children (like health care, education, and welfare).

Parents with legal custody make decisions or choices about their children’s:

  • School or child care
  • Religious activities or institutions
  • Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs
  • Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, or other health professional (except in emergency situations)
  • Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities
  • Travel
  • Residence (where the children will live)

Parents who share legal custody both have the right to make decisions about these aspects of their children’s lives, but they do not have to agree on every decision. Either parent can make a decision alone. But to avoid having problems and ending up back in court, both parents should communicate with each other and cooperate in making decisions together.

Sometimes, parents have joint legal custody, but not joint physical custody. This means that both parents share the responsibility for making important decisions in the children’s lives, but the children live with 1 parent most of the time. The parent who does not have physical custody usually has visitation with the children.

See also Legal CustodyPhysical Custody, Joint Legal CustodySole Legal CustodyJoint Physical CustodySole Physical Custody, Joint Custody, Parenting Plan.

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