Custody of the children can be physical or legal. Physical custody covers the locations of the children and how parenting time is shared, while legal custody determines the decision-making rights of each parent.
When you share legal custody with your co-parent, both of you have the legal authority to make key decisions affecting the children’s lives. It is a crucial part of parenting, and in most cases, legal custody is a shared responsibility between both parents as long as it’s in the best interests of the children.
What decisions require a consensus?
Not every decision affecting the child requires consent from both parents. Only major decisions that affect the children’s lives, such as their education, religion and major medical procedures, would require input from both parents under a joint legal custody order.
Likewise, your co-parent can act alone in emergencies where the child’s life or health is in danger.
Making co-parenting work
Since everyone has a say in a joint legal custody arrangement, it can create unnecessary conflict as each parent seeks to stamp their authority. Joint legal custody is only ideal when co-parents are willing to put their differences aside and co-parent effectively.
Therefore, you need to cooperate with your co-parent and prevent unnecessary back and forth, which can negatively affect the children’s stability and overall well-being.
Protecting your decision-making rights
Even if you are not the primary custodian, your co-parent is supposed to consult you before making significant decisions about the children when legal custody is shared. Should they ignore your rights or violate the custody arrangement, you ought to be aware of your legal options and safeguard your role as a parent.
It is possible to turn to the courts to enforce the custody orders. Here, a judge will evaluate the prevailing circumstances before deciding the way forward. If need be, the custody arrangement can be modified or revised to safeguard the children’s interests.