Who makes important decisions for a child after divorce?

When parents are facing the prospect of divorce, they often wonder how their decision to move forward with this process will impact their child. As a California parent, you know you have custody rights and are entitled to access to your kid, but it is in your interests to fully understand how child custody works. There are different types of custody that can affect your role in the life of your child.

Legal custody refers to a parent's right to make decisions for his or her child. This is separate from physical custody rights, which pertain to the actual time you will spend with your child. Whether you will fight for custody in court or you believe it is best to negotiate a settlement out of court, it is smart to think about how you should address the issue of legal custody as you pursue a beneficial custody order.

How legal custody will affect you

When you think about child custody, it is likely to first think about things like weekend visitation, holiday schedules and rotating parenting time with the other parent. However, legal custody can be just as important. Without legal custody, you may have regular access to your kid, but you will not have the right to make important choices on his or her behalf. Consider the following:

  • The parent with legal custody will be able to make decisions regarding education. This includes where a child will go to school, tutoring and more.
  • Legal custody allows a parent to decide about matters pertaining to religious upbringing, including service attendance and church activities.
  • When decisions regarding any type of medical care are necessary, the parent with legal custody will have the right to make that choice.

In some cases, parents share legal custody. Whether it is by court order or negotiated settlement, you and the other parent may work together to make important choices for your child. In other situations, it may be best for one parent to retain legal custody. 

Protecting your parental rights

You will find it beneficial to start with a complete evaluation of your case. This will allow you to pursue a final order that protects the best interests of your child and allows you to have a close relationship with him or her after the divorce is final. 

Before you make any decisions regarding your parental rights or child custody, it is helpful to learn more about legal custody and how you can intentionally seek to protect your vital role in the life of your kid.

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