Joint legal custody may be the custody arrangement courts in California assign to parents. Parents who have this type of custody share with the other parent the legal right to contribute to decision-making regarding significant issues that pertain to their child. This means that they will be making major decisions regarding matters related to healthcare, education and religion.
It is important for parents to be aware that legal custody is distinct from physical custody; parents who share legal custody may not always share physical custody. When parents are granted joint legal custody by the court, they should not automatically assume that they will also be given joint physical custody. Arrangements in which the children live the majority of the time with one parent and regularly visit the other, even though both parents have legal custody, are very common.
Joint legal custody can be beneficial in many ways. The children will be able to benefit from seeing their parents engage in effective communication with each other, which is necessary in order for the arrangement to work well. As time passes, the parents may find that parenting collaboratively becomes easier. The children will also benefit from learning about compromise and how to handle disagreements in a responsible manner.
One drawback of having joint legal custody is that it can be difficult to actually engage in collaborations for major decisions. Gauging success can be difficult because success means different things to every family.
A family law attorney who offers mediation and collaborative law services may advise clients about which legal alternatives to litigation may be used to obtain the desired divorce settlement terms. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the attorney may recommend divorce mediation to resolve disputes regarding divorce legal issues, such as child custody and support.