Physical custody often takes the spotlight in a divorce since it determines where the children live. However, legal custody is equally important since it directly affects the children’s upbringing.
Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility to make crucial decisions that affect a child’s life. When you share legal custody with your co-parent, you both have a say in important decisions about the children’s lives, such as where they go to school, what medical treatment or procedures they receive and even the religion they practice.
How is legal custody awarded?
California law prefers it when both parents are involved in raising the children. Therefore, legal custody is shared between the parents in most cases. However, the children’s best interests always come first.
The court may award sole legal custody if one parent is unfit to make decisions regarding the children’s upbringing and welfare, if the parents cannot work together in making such decisions or if the children are better off that way.
Remember, legal and physical custody does not necessarily go hand in hand. You may share legal but not physical custody of the children.
Enforcing custody orders
You can seek the court’s intervention if you share legal custody and your co-parent does not consult you when making crucial decisions affecting the children.
Court-issued custody orders are enforceable. Just like you would take action if your co-parent prevents you from seeing the children under joint physical custody, you should also act if they violate your parental rights under shared legal custody.
Your involvement in the children’s lives is crucial to their development, and you should not relegate the importance of shared legal custody. Therefore, if you are having any custody issues and are concerned about your children’s well-being, it helps to understand the legal options available to protect them.