When joint legal custody is awarded, both parents will have equal input in major decisions regarding the child. In these cases, one parent typically has the child live with them for the majority of the time, and is called the parent of primary residence (PPR). The other parent, with whom the child lives part of the time, is known as the parent of alternate residence (PAR). This is very common in New Jersey, whether it is agreed upon by both parents or the court orders it. Joint legal custody can work out well if both parents are on good terms and can cooperate in raising the child and making joint decisions.
What does Joint Legal Custody entail?
Some of the common areas both parents will have input on under joint legal custody are:
- Medical Care. If the child has an injury or illness, both parents have the opportunity to decide what kind of care the child should receive, and where it should be done. It is always best to try to remain “in network” so health insurance coverage will assist in the cost of treatment.
- Religious Upbringing. Both parents have a say on what religious practices and education, if any, the child should have. Sometimes if the two parents are of different religions, they can reach agreement to allow the child to practice both. Again, if the parents cannot reach agreement the issue may go to court, where a judge will decide what is in the best interest of the child based upon the family history and current living situation of the parties.
- Education. Each parent will have access to the child’s educational records, and input on where the child will go to school.
- Name Change. If one of the parents wants to change the child’s name and the other does not agree, it typically falls to the parent who wants the change to provide evidence on why it is necessary, or in the best interest of the child.
Is Joint Legal Custody the Best Option for Me?
The key factor in joint legal custody is the two parents being able to cooperate and make decisions together. They can decide that one parent will handle some issues while the other parent will handle others, or any other combination of responsibilities. It all depends on the level of trust and understanding between them. If they cannot decide on something, the court will first and foremost try to decide what is in the best interest of the child.