In many divorce and paternity cases it often happens that one parent is provided primary physical custody of the child or children, and the other parent receives parenting time. Physical custody refers to where the child primarily lives. There is another type of custody, legal custody, that could be either joint in both parents or sole in one parent. This means, the parents can share joint legal custody and one parent could have primary physical custody, but it also means that one parent could be provided with both sole legal custody and primary physical custody. Legal custody refers to the parent or parents that have the decision making authority regarding education, health, religion, and other big life decisions for the child.
If you have joint legal custody with your ex, or your ex was awarded sole legal custody, this does not mean that you are cut out of receiving information about your child. Even if your ex has sole legal custody, it only means that he or she has the decision making authority, they must still keep you informed about your child.
Two major categories of information that you have a right to as a parent, even if you do not have legal custody are:
- School records and information: Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act.
- Medical records: Including birth control.
If you share joint legal custody with your ex, and even if you are not the primary physical custodial parent, you still have the right to jointly make decisions regarding your child’s:
- Healthcare (the doctors he or she goes to, medication, or surgeries)
- Education (where the child goes to school and if the child is enrolled in any special programs or extracurricular activities)
- Religion (the religion the child is brought up in and the religious activities the child is involved in).
However, there may be limitations to these general standards imposed by a court if there is good reason. For example, a court could give the parents joint legal custody, but state that the Mother (or Father) has the final decision making authority with respect to Religion (maybe this is a point of contention between the parties).
We hope that you have found this information to be helpful in understanding legal custody and what it means to you. These general categories of information shared between parents may or may not apply to your specific case given the circumstances. This is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or concerns about your specific case, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. can help evaluate your specific case. This blog post was written by Attorney, Lori B. Schmeltzer.