Many people don’t realize that there are two forms of child custody in New York: Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial if you are a litigant in a child custody case.

Today, we will focus our discussion on legal custody. What is the definition of legal custody? What does it mean for you, your child, and the other parent?

What is Legal Custody?

Legal custody is fancy term meaning “decision making responsibilities”. The parent granted this form of custody has the right to make important decisions concerning a child. These decisions include the child’s religious upbringing, education, and anything regarding their medical care.  Legal custody can be awarded to only one parent (sole custody), or to both parents (joint custody).

Judges typically give joint legal custody to parents who are involved in an uncontested divorce, or those who agree on how they want their child to be raised.

How is Legal Custody Decided?

All child custody rulings are made in the best interest of the child. Because of this standard, a judge must take the following factors into consideration while determining custody:

  • The history and pattern of previous decision making
  • The strengths and weaknesses of each party’s parenting skills
  • The amount of time each parent has spent with the child, and how present each parent has been in the child’s upbringing
  • How willing the parents are to cooperate with each other (this determines whether legal custody will be joint or sole)

Problems with Joint Legal Custody

Parents should be able to work together and make unified decisions in their child’s best interest, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Because of this, why judges are hesitant to proceed with joint legal custody if the parents can’t get along.

Parents do have options if they are unable to reach a compromise on which school the child should attend, or who their primary care doctor should be. Litigants can request mediation through the court, and have a judge decide for them. Alternatively, they may petition the court for a change of legal custody.

Will Sole Legal Custody Hurt a Child?

Sole legal custody will not hurt a child, nor will it damage their relationship with the other parent. A parent will not lose their parental rights if they are unable to make major decisions on their child’s behalf.

A parent who does not have these rights can be awarded either joint residential custody, or have visitation rights. A parent can build a loving, healthy, relationship with their child, regardless of whether or not they have legal custody.

 

The law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates routinely handles child custody, as well as divorce, cases throughout the New York City area. For more information, call 718-875-7584 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.