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Comparing Joint vs. Sole Legal Custody of Children in California

Posted on in Child Custody and Visitation

Los Gatos legal child custody attorneyWhen making decisions about your post-divorce parenting plan, it is important to understand the difference between joint legal custody and sole legal custody of your children.   

Joint Legal Custody

Having joint legal custody, which is the most common choice in California divorces, means that both parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the children. It does not mean the parents have to be in 100% agreement about every decision, but they do have to be willing to discuss these issues calmly and compromise based on the best interests of the children. 

When joint legal custody is ordered, the court documents should specify the situations when the consent of both parents is required and the consequences if one party does not obtain the other’s consent. Such orders should also specify that both parents should have full access to all school and medical records, and that parents must keep each other informed about the children’s location and care decisions.

When determining how responsibility for decisions about children will be handled, it can be very helpful to work with an attorney trained in mediation techniques. Mediation can help you make sure that all important issues regarding your children’s upbringing are discussed, decided, and documented in your parenting plan.

In situations not addressed in the court orders, either parent may make decisions solely, but they should be sure to communicate major decisions back to the other parent. Day to day decisions--for example, what the child eats and when they go to bed--are up to the parent who is caring for the child on that day.

Sole Legal Custody

A parent with sole legal custody will have the right and responsibility to make all decisions about the care and upbringing of their child, without the need to consult with the other parent. A parent may want sole legal custody of their children in the following types of situations:

  • The other parent has been deemed unfit, perhaps due to substance abuse or a history of physical or emotional abuse.
  • The other parent has mental, physical, or other issues which prevent them from making joint decisions wisely and amicably.
  • The other parent is frequently out-of-touch for some reason, making regular communication and joint decisions too difficult. For example, the parent’s job might involve frequent travel to remote places, or they may live in a location far from the children.

Mediation Assistance from a Los Gatos Family Law Attorney

A Los Gatos, CA child custody lawyer can help you resolve divorce and child custody issues through mediation or litigation. At the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca, we believe that mediation is the best way to reach a divorce settlement, because it results in less stress during the divorce process and better post-divorce relationships--which ultimately is best for the children. Contact us at 408-395-8822 for a free initial consultation.


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