In New York State, the term joint legal custody does not have an official meaning. However, the courts generally interpret the phrase to mean that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. This would include decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child.
It is important to note that joint legal custody does not mean that both parents will equally share primary physical custody of the child. Indeed, “legal custody” and “physical custody” are two separate and distinct concepts. Physical custody means which parent will have the child in their actual physical care more than 50% of the time. In contrast, as stated above, joint legal custody, means that the parents will share the important decisions concerning the child’s upbringing.
Even when parties agree to joint legal custody, parties must decide what happens if they disagree on a particular decision for their children. There are a few mechanisms that act as a “tie-breaker”. For example, (i) one parent can be determined to have the final decision (usually, after prior consultation); (ii) the parties can decide to go to arbitration/mediation; (iii) the parties can decide to use an expert to guide them, e.g., the primary physician would decide medical decisions; or (iv) they can split up the final decision making process, e.g., one parent could have the final decision on health decisions and the other parent could have final decision on educational decisions.
Regardless of who has final decision making, either party always retains the right to have the court determine what is in the best interest of the child.
In virtually every situation, parents can agree to joint legal custody. However, if the court makes the decision regarding legal custody, courts are generally reluctant to award “joint legal custody”. If the court believes the parties are in an acrimonious relationship or simply cannot act in concert, the court will not award joint legal custody, instead, one parent will be designated as the legal custodial parent.
At the Badanes Law Office, if you are thinking of getting divorced and have questions concerning joint legal custody or any other issue involved in your divorce, David Badanes has the experience to answer your questions.
David Badanes and the Badanes Law Office represent clients in Suffolk County, Nassau County and in New York City. Please contact the Badanes Law Office at 631-239-1702, email at email@example.com or visit our website: www.dbnylaw.com. The Badanes Law Office has offices in Northport, Garden City, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
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