As a family unit, you likely made crucial decisions involving your children together with your spouse. When you go separate ways after divorce, which parent retains the power to decide pertinent matters affecting the children, such as medical procedures? Do you still have a say?
The answer to that depends on the existing legal custody arrangement. Here is what you need to know.
Legal custody defines the decision-making authority of a parent
Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of a parent to make major decisions regarding their children, such as those related to the child’s education, health care and religious upbringing. It is separate from physical custody, which refers to where the child lives and their day-to-day care.
Legal custody can be awarded jointly or solely to one parent, depending on the child’s best interests. In most cases, the court will grant joint custody if both parents are willing and able to take up the decision-making role and the circumstances allow.
You have a say in your child’s medical decisions if you share legal custody with your co-parent. It means your co-parent must consult you or seek a consensus before making major decisions affecting your child’s health care unless it is an emergency. However, the parent with sole legal custody of the child can make such calls without necessarily informing or reaching out to the other.
Understand and protect your legal rights
The outcome of child custody proceedings could significantly shape your future relationship with your child and your involvement in their life. Therefore, it helps to understand how everything works and safeguard your parental rights. Legal guidance can go a long way in ensuring you participate in crucial decisions affecting your child, even if you are not the primary custodian.