Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. There are numerous ways in which the right and responsibility to make decisions can be shared. Plans allocating legal custody are as important to the child’s well-being as are physical custody schedules.
When you get divorced, you will receive a joint legal custody order specifying which parent will make decisions regarding your children’s welfare and upbringing. Often, parents work out these arrangements between themselves, either completely voluntarily or with the assistance of their attorneys or a mediator. When they are unable to reach a decision, however, or when unmarried parents are unable to agree on who will have legal custody of their children, the court may intervene and make a decision based on the children’s best interests.
Joint Legal Custody Defined
Joint legal child custody is an arrangement where the parents share equal legal custody of their children. This means that parents participate equally in making decisions about the child’s upbringing and welfare.
Examples of a Joint Legal Custody
Mother and Father are divorced, and agree to a true joint custody arrangement over their children. Mother and Father will work together to reach an agreement on all major issues concerning the welfare and upbringing of their children. The court will adopt this agreement to create a court order.
The Effects of the Order
Both parents are entitled to make decisions regarding the welfare and upbringing of their children. Neither parent is to act “unilaterally” in making a decision unless an emergency exists. Mother and Father need to consult one another in making educational choices, religious activities, and medical care. Again, either parent can act alone should an emergency exist but should notify the other parent of the emergency as soon as reasonably possible.
Joint Legal Custody Decisions
A California Family Law Court can designate when mutual consent is required. Most often, courts order that the consent of both parents is required for decision regarding the child’s education, decisions pertaining to a child’s medical care, and decisions regarding daycare for the child. In emergency situations, one parent does not have to obtain the consent of the other parent. However, the parent acting in an emergency, needs to notify the other parent immediately, or as soon as possible, in the case of an emergency.
In making an order of joint legal custody, the court shall specify the circumstances under which the consent of both parents is required to be obtained in order to exercise legal control of the child and the consequences of the failure to obtain mutual consent. In all other circumstances, either parent acting alone may exercise legal control of the child.
Access to Records and Information
Both parents have the right to access records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because that parent is not the children’s custodial parent.
Each parent shall keep the other advised within a reasonable time when the minor children visit with the doctor, hospital, or place of medical treatment (excluding checkups), including the date of the visit, the name and address of the doctor, the condition treated, the results of the treatment, and description of any follow-up appointments made.
Each parent is responsible for keeping themselves advised and for advising each other of all school, athletic, and social events in which the children participate including, but not limited to school report cards, school meeting notices, requests for school conferences, notice of activities related to the children, and order forms for school pictures.
Each parent shall keep the other advised at all times of his/her current residence and business address, telephone numbers (home, cell and work), the children’s school and daycare, and the location of where the children will be spending any extended period of time (two days or more).
Each parent is to provide the other with the address and telephone number at which the minor children reside. A parent shall notify the other parent if the parent plans to change the residence of the children for more than thirty (30) days, unless there is a prior written agreement to the removal. The notice shall be given before the contemplated move, by mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, to the last known address of the parent to be notified. A copy of the notice shall also be sent to that parent’s counsel of record. To the extent feasible, the notice shall be provided within a minimum of forty-five (45) days before the proposed change of residence so as to allow for mediation of a new agreement concerning custody.
The parent filling out any required forms for the child’s school, extracurricular activities, treatment with professionals, and insurance carriers shall list the names of both parents and their telephone numbers.
Neither parent shall enroll the children in activities which require a commitment from the other parent or interfere with a previously agreed upon or Court ordered schedule without mutual approval.
Medical Testing or Evaluation
Neither parent shall submit the children to any psychological/psychiatric testing or evaluation or to any extended course of medical, dental, orthodontic, psychiatric, or psychological treatment/counseling without consultation with one another and consent which shall be in writing.
Changing Child’s Name
Both parents must consent and/or Court authorization is needed before changing of the children’s surname, obtaining a passport or driver license, and approving underage marriage or enlistment in the military.
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