Some New Jersey parents who are getting a divorce might wonder what is meant by joint legal custody. Legal custody is the right of parents to decide what religion their children will practice, what schools they will attend, what kind of medical care they will receive and other major issues. If parents share legal custody, they both have these rights.
This means that parents must learn to communicate and work together on these issues, and this has both its good and bad points. When parents are able to resolve conflicts and move forward to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, this can strengthen their overall co-parenting relationship. It can also be positive for children to see them work through their difficulties in this way. Parents may also appreciate being able to talk over hard decisions about their children. On the other hand, since success in sharing legal custody lacks clear benchmarks, it can sometimes feel frustrating for parents who may wonder whether they are making progress.
Joint legal custody also provides no guarantee that this communication and cooperation will happen. In fact, one parent may try to use it against the other, insisting that parent has to agree because of the shared custody. Another issue could be if one ex-spouse is routinely inattentive to parenting duties.
Both legal and physical custody arrangements may be decided by parents or by a judge during a divorce. Parents might prefer the opportunity to negotiate these arrangements with the help of their attorneys, and with the above points in mind, they might decide joint legal custody is in the best interests of the child. However, if a custody arrangement is unworkable because one parent simply will not keep to the terms of the agreement, it might be necessary for the other parent to seek a modification.