What does it mean if I have joint legal custody?

When a parent has full or joint "physical child custody," the term refers to whom the child is living with. As for "legal child custody," this term refers to whether a parent has the legal authority to make decisions for his or her child.

As these are two different categories of child custody, a parent might have joint legal custody with no physical custody. A parent in this circumstance would probably have visitation rights to his or her child. Meanwhile, some parents might share both types of custody 50-50.

How legal custody gets shared

When parents share joint legal custody, they are sharing the ability to make decisions regarding different areas of their child's life and upbringing. As one might imagine, it may be difficult to come to agreement on all areas of a child's life.

Here are different ways parents may share this kind of custody:

Both parents get in touch to agree on important decisions about their ideas regarding their child's upbringing. For instance, parents will make a joint decision about whether their child will go to a particular school.

When a child is staying with a particular parent, that parent will have the ability to make different judgment calls and decisions. For instance, if the child is sick, the parent who has the child will decide whether or not to take the child to a physician.

The parents will come together on any major decisions, such as religion, important medical care issues, sports activities and extracurricular activities. Parents also come together on any decisions that could affect the other parent's schedule. However, when it comes to minor decisions, the parent with physical custody at the time will make a judgment call.

The parents decide who will make decisions on different topics. For example, maybe one parent is a doctor, so that parent is charged with making decisions on any areas regarding medical care. Maybe the other parent gets to decide on issues surrounding the child's spiritual development and religious concerns.

Are you trying to organize your legal custody decision-making process?

Parents who can work together and come to agreement easily and efficiently are the best candidates for legal child custody. Parents who disagree at every moment, even regarding trivial matters, may want to seek full legal custody. Ultimately, if a parent can make sufficiently compelling arguments in court -- when parents are in constant disagreement -- a New Jersey family law judge could be more likely to award full legal custody to the most agreeable and reasonable parent.

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