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What is Sole Legal Custody?

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Mother and daughter (12-13) sitting on bed and talking
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Definition of Sole Legal Custody:

The parent who has sole legal custody is the only person who has the legal authority to make major decisions on behalf of the child. These include decisions regarding education, religion, and health care.

Parents should be aware, too, that legal custody is separate from physical custody. In other words, it is possible for co-parents to share legal custody but not share physical custody.

Pros of Sole Legal Custody:

  • It is often easier to make major decisions when there is only one parent legally responsible for each choice.

  • This may, in some cases, result in greater consistency for the child.

  • For families where one parent is completely absent, it is absolutely necessary for the remaining parent to be able to make critical decisions without having to consult with a parent who has made himself/herself unavailable.

Cons of Sole Legal Custody:

  • It can be difficult to consult with the other parent before making a major decision, especially when it comes to a child's routine or emergency medical care.

  • When disagreements arise over various decisions, it is unclear which parent should be the one to defer or compromise on his or her convictions.

  • It can sometimes be unclear which parenting decisions are deemed "major" decisions.

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