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Legal Custody

What is Legal Custody?

Legal Custody is defined as the right to make certain decisions regarding the parties= minor children as well as the obligation to share certain information with the other parent. As with physical custody, there are two types of Legal Custody (Sole & Joint).

Common decisions that are involved with Legal Custody include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Selection of Doctors, Dentists, and Mental Health Professionals
  • Selection of Schools and Sports
  • Obtaining a Passport or Driver's license.

Joint Legal Custody

Family Code 3083. 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. An order of joint legal custody shall not be construed to permit an action that is inconsistent with the physical custody order unless the action is expressly authorized by the court.

The parties are under an obligation to meet and confer (discuss the legal custody issue) prior to making such a decision. Failure to do so may result in various sanctions being imposed by the court such as changing the order from Joint to Sole Legal Custody for the harmed party for that particular issue or perhaps even a change in custody (depending on the egregiousness of the action)

Sole Legal Custody

When a parent has Sole Legal Custody, they are not required to meet and confer with the other parent prior to making the decision for the child. For example, a parent who has Sole Legal Custody may obtain a passport or enroll a child in a particular sport without discussing same with the other parent. Sole Legal Custody may have a Notice requirement (whereby the other parent must be notified of the decision made) such that the other parent may petition the court to undue or block the decision of that parent. Alternatively, the Court may order Sole Legal Custody only as to a certain issue such as where the child attends school or the selection of a therapist.

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