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Joint legal custody is the legal term used to describe both parents sharing the responsibility and joy of caring for children after a divorce. Joint legal custody means that the major decisions about the child's life are made by both parents. These major decisions may include those about education, health and dental care, emergency care, religious practices, extracurricular activities, and more.
Joint legal custody can be agreed upon by both parents independently or through a parent plan so long as they are approved through the legal system. Joint legal custody is awarded when it will benefit the children involved. One of the family court system's greatest objectives is to serve the best interests of the children involved in all divorce cases. If abuse, neglect, or violence are or were involved in a marriage or divorce, the courts are unlikely to award joint legal custody.
Joint legal custody actually has two components: the legal aspects of child custody and the physical aspects of child custody. As mentioned, legal custody refers to the power to make decisions about the child. Physical child custody refers to who the child will live with and where the child will spend his/her time. It is possible for a child to reside primarily in one parent's home but for the parents to still share joint legal custody.
Statistics gathered in 1997 about joint legal custody from nineteen US states found that joint legal custody is awarded in two out of every ten divorce cases involving children. More than seventy percent of all custody cases result in the mother receiving primary custody of the child(ren). Less than ten percent of all child custody cases result in primary custody being granted to the father.
In the past, joint legal custody was even rarer than it is today, as courts tended to favor situations where the mother remained the primary caregiver. Courts are now most concerned with the best interests of the children, whether that results in sole or joint legal custody.
Decisions about the terms of joint legal custody can be handled in a few ways. Most often they are handled during mediations. Mediation dealings involve a neutral third party whose purpose is to facilitate joint legal custody negotiations. During mediation, it is advantageous to a parent to retain the services of a divorce attorney who can ensure that their interests are protected and maximized. Through mediations, a parenting plan is developed which details the stipulations of joint legal custody. The specifics of joint legal custody can be revised, as needed, after the original terms have been established. The terms of a joint legal custody decision are legally binding, and any violation of these terms is legally punishable.
If you are interested in learning more about joint legal custody, please contact us to speak with a qualified and experienced divorce attorney in your area. This legal expert can evaluate your case to determine how best to protect and maximize your legal rights.
More information on custody:
Child custody rights may be shared by both parents or, primary child custody rights may be awarded to one parent or legal guardian. Since the 1970s the family court will award child custody rights contingent with the best interests of the child.
Child custody for fathers following a divorce is one of the most important aspects of a dissolving marriage. Throughout history the legal presumptions about child custody for fathers has changed significantly. Before the twentieth century children were regarded as the property of their father. Under common law, child custody for fathers was commonly awarded, as children were considered a father's rightful property. A major shift occurred after this period in history, as family courts came to favor mothers in child custody cases. It was presumed that under normal circumstances, children did better when placed in the sole custody of their mothers.