LEGAL CUSTODY: Legal custody refers to decision making for the "big" issues that affect children. Parents ALWAYS have the right to information about their children, even if they don't have legal custody. However, having legal custody, or sharing it, means that the parents have a right to be involved in the major decisions and not just know about them. Courts often prefer that parents share legal custody and Judges want to see parents working together to make the decisions that are in their children's best interests. However, in some rare cases, this is simply not possible, and those are times that a Court might make one parent the sole "legal custodian" for the children. Legal Custody decisions typically fall into three categories:
Medical or Healthcare Decisions. Parents who have legal custody, even joint legal custody, have the right to be involved in decisions about things like choosing doctors, whether their child gets braces, or has surgery, if a child should see a counselor and choosing that counselor, whether to put the child on ADHD medication, etc.
Educational Decisions. This might be things like whether a child attends a public or private school, which specific school the child will attend, whether they need a tutor or need to have an IEP at school. It might also include decisions about extra-curricular activities that happen either through the school or in the community.
Religious Upbringing. Decisions about religion may include things like whether a child is raised in and taught the religious precepts of any religion, what specific church, temple, mosque or other house of worship the child attends, whether the child participates in mid-week religion classes, and whether a child is baptized or confirmed in the church. Religious decisions might also spill over into lifestyle decisions and decisions about what events and activities children are allowed to do.