Q: What is custody and how is it determined?
ANSWER: Custody essentially means decision making ability. If you have sole legal custody of your children, then you are free to make all of the decisions necessary in their lives. You are free to consult their other parent and you should try to do so, but in the event you cannot agree or in the event you choose not to consult, then you are free to make the decision. Be aware that the Courts, if so requested, are always available to review a decision that has been made to ensure that the decision is in the best interests of the children. Joint legal custody essentially means that each parent has an equal say in making the significant decisions affecting the lives of their children. If parents have agreed to share joint legal custody, then they have essentially agreed to set aside their personal differences to effectively co-parent their children. If parents are unable to agree on the issue of custody, then the Courts will make that decision for them.
Q: Will I have less visitation time with my child if the other parent has sole custody?
ANSWER: Not usually. Custody equates with decision making, not the right to spend time with a child. The parent who has sole custody has the right to make most of the decisions for a child in the event that both parents cannot agree. When parents agree to share joint legal custody they essentially agree to set aside their personal differences to effectively co-parent their child. Each will have an equal say in the significant decisions that need to be made for a child. Whether your spouse has sole custody or your share joint legal custody, you should be able to share equally in visitation with your child, keeping in mind the child’s schedule and needs. Time with a child is usually separate and distinct from the issue of custody.