Feelings change over the course of a divorce proceeding. An issue that may cause a once amicable split to become contentious is child custody.
When parents cannot agree on legal or physical custody, the court steps in to decide. Should this happen, it may help understand the parameters by which the court may choose both legal and physical custody of children.
Legal custody determination
Legal custody refers to who has the right to make decisions on behalf of the children. The court prefers that both parents maintain legal custody and rights such as:
- Deciding where the children attend school
- Making healthcare decisions
- Choosing religious preferences
- Having access to all educational and medical records
While the court wants both parents to hold joint legal custody, it must decide based on what it believes is in the children’s best interests. In some cases, this is only allowing one parent to have legal custody rights. This decision does not bar the other parent from seeing the children. It may, however, limit the interaction.
If parents cannot decide to share legal rights, they may also not develop a physical custody plan. This is often known as the parenting plan or time-sharing agreement. It sets out a basic schedule of visitation between the parents. Joint legal custody does not always result in equal time sharing. It often deviates based on the schedules of the parents.
While court intervention may become unavoidable in some circumstances, it is always better for parents to agree on handling child-related issues. A failure to do so may put the decision in the hands of a third party and take the control away from those who love the children.