Last time, our blog discussed how once the reality of an impending divorce sets in, the soon-to-be former spouses understandably want answers about child custody.
To that end, we indicated that while firm answers regarding child custody were virtually impossible to provide given that every situation is different, spouses should nevertheless be aware that a court will award both physical custody and legal custody, with the former referring to where and with whom a child will reside.
We’ll continue this discussion in today’s post, examining what it means to be awarded legal custody.
In general, legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to participate in important decisions relating to the care and upbringing of a child. This includes making determinations involving education, religious instruction, medical care, dental care and other vital issues.
In general, courts prefer what are known as joint legal custody arrangements, whereby legal custody is awarded to both parents, who are then tasked with working together to reach mutually acceptable decisions concerning their child in the years ahead.
To see how something like this might work, consider the example from our last post of the sole physical custody arrangement involving a child who lives with their mother, and who sees their father primarily on the weekends and/or holidays.
If a joint legal custody arrangement was ordered in this situation, both the mother and father would have an equal interest in such matters as where the child would go to school, whether they would be raised in a particular faith and whether they should undergo a certain medical procedure.
It’s important for parents to understand that here in Nebraska, the court will generally not approve a joint legal custody arrangement unless both parents are willing to testify that they are capable of cooperation in these matters. Furthermore, they should understand that in the event that they are unable to reach a mutually acceptable decision concerning the child, the parent with custody will have the final say.
Remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you have questions about physical or legal custody, or would like to learn more about your ability to establish custody rights.