Joint Legal Custody

By Staff Writer

Joint legal custody means that you and your former spouse share all decisions concerning your child's welfare after the divorce. This can mean making decisions together about your child's school, his sports program, his church-going, or his social activities. It includes everything you would have had authority over in your child's life if the marriage had continued.

One way to avoid conflict when sharing decisions with your ex is to agree...well, agree when to disagree. When you are making your separation agreement and your divorce agreement, and you are hammering out child custody issues, give a thought to defining future decision making.

For example, you may decide that you have to agree about medical care if your child is facing an operation or life-threatening illness, but the consensus of both parents is not needed for emergency dental work. You may decide that you have to agree when it comes to which school your child will attend, but you don't have to agree on which after-school programs he or she pursues. It may be important to you to come to a mutual decision about college or military school. Yet a vacation in Europe may not need a consensus.

Pitfalls of Joint Legal Custody
If you do face an antagonistic or difficult relationship with your ex-spouse, joint legal custody can be harrowing. It's even more important in that case to implement ground rules at the very beginning so that every little decision isn't an opportunity for contention. It's a case of "choose your battles". If you are gracious enough to compromise on some things, then have it written in your agreement that your ex-spouse must also be flexible on key issues.