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Does joint legal custody mean we always have to agree?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2020 | Firm News |

Especially around the holidays, differences in parenting styles can show up more clearly than ever before. Maybe you have strong feelings about the religious celebration of Christmas while your former spouse focuses more on visiting Santa Claus at the Galleria at Tyler. Perhaps you do not mind if the kids sleep in during Christmas break while your former spouse prefers that they keep their regular schedule. 

For some couples, these opposing parenting decisions were part of the reason to pursue a divorce in the first place. If you and your spouse have joint legal custody, you may feel like you have to agree on everything anyway. 

However, joint legal custody does not mean that parents have to take ownership of every decision in a 50/50 split. Just as joint physical custody does not mandate that each parent spend exactly 50% of every week with the children, joint legal custody does have some room for each parent to make the decision she or he feels is best for the children even if the other parent does not agree. 

Splitting parental responsibilities 

In some cases, it makes sense to split parental responsibilities in a joint custody situation. You can specify in your parenting plan if one parent will take charge of decisions about the child’s religious upbringing and the other will have responsibility for the kid’s sports teams and extracurricular activities. 

Other couples take a different approach and split all decisions based on who has physical custody at the time the decision comes up. This tends to work better with older children and custody arrangements where the child spends extended periods of time with each parent before switching back to the other household. 

Shared parental responsibilities 

Some parenting decisions have more weight than others. In a joint legal custody arrangement, there are still a few areas that require parents to communicate. Those can include: 

  • Medical care 
  • Any vacations or trips out of the country 
  • Major education issues (which school district the child will attend, whether he or she will skip a grade) 

Keeping the best interest of the child in mind can lead to a shared decision, but a mediator can also clarify difficult disagreements. 


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