Parents with joint legal custody equally share the legal authority to make major decisions on behalf of their children, including decisions about their education, religion, and health care. However, managing those decisions can be quite challenging. Do you collaborate with one another on all of the big decisions, or do you find yourselves arguing over what it means to share equal degrees of authority? Share the biggest challenges you've faced in trying to make joint legal custody work, and any tips that might help other co-parents negotiate these types of challenges peacefully.
Sharing Joint Legal Custody
- My judge ordered Joint Legal Custody. We were both young parents, and my ex-husband decided he no longer wanted to be a husband or father. It was fine by me, but I wish he would go away for good. He doesn't support our boys either emotionally or financially. He sees them once a month... maybe. The only reason he went for joint legal was that his mother made him! This man has been arrested for drug possession, has no license due to child support enforcement (but drives anyway), and refuses to work a legitimate job so he doesn't have to pay support... So why do I have to give him joint legal? He doesn't care about our boys. He never asks about school, never shows up for sports games, even though he knows about them well in advance. The boys are 3 and 5 now, and they think that their father is just a guy that babysits them sometimes! My oldest asked Santa for a dad for Christmas... how heartbreaking! I may ask the courts for modification of the joint legal...
- —Guest Frustrated in MA
Defining "Major Medical Decision"
- The one area we have difficulty with is routine appointments. I don't think that should be considered a major medical decision that we both must agree on - say, for going to the dentist or for an annual physical. But my ex disagrees. He expects me to get his "permission" to get our son's teeth cleaned or an annual flu shot. It's gotten to the point where I'm scared to let him know that an appointment is coming up.
- —Guest lisa
Joint Custody Challenges
- My ex is in the military and he has been gone for two of the three years of our daughter's life. I would like for my daughter to have a relationship with her father because I never did, but he does not take the time to spend with her that he should. Once I convince her she will have a good time at daddy's house and she is finally excited to go, he either decides to bring her back early or doesn't pick her up at all. The first time he picked her up after returning from overseas he brought her back after a few hours. I know she is strong but I'm concerned with how this is affecting her. I have confronted him about it, but he thinks there is no problem and that he is a great father and gets angry and cries. I don't want to be responsible for taking her father away because she loves him, but I want to do what is best for her.
- —Guest Brandi
Difficult Medical Decisions
- My son's teacher and I have evaluated him, and we believe he has ADD. It is greatly affecting his ability to learn in school. I want to put him on medication if, based on the evaluation, his doctor thinks he will benefit from it. His father, who has never been involved with the school, disagrees. We can't come to a mutual agreement, but because of the type of custody we share I am going to have to take him back to court to do what is best for our son and to fight for a different type of custody that will allow me to make this decision without his consent. I just want our son to have a chance to do well in school. Seeing him struggle everyday breaks my heart. It's easy to be an every other weekend parent because that's fun time! I'm so frustrated that my ex can't see that I just want what's best for our son!
- —Guest Dawn
Hiding My Daughter for Three Months!
- We had a nasty divorce. It took over seven years and cost me over $40,000. Her costs were even higher, because she kept telling the courts I was hiding money. Every time you check all continental banks in the U.S., it costs in excess of $500. She did that seven or eight times. Finally, she pulled our daughter out of the court mandated school and ran away with her. It was the worst three months of my life! My ex just wanted to know where I had hidden the money at, but there is and never was any money! My ex did all this because she wanted to force me to give her money that never existed!
She didn't care about our daughter. Our daughter was just a pawn for her to use to hurt me any way she could. After seven years, I finally won full custody. Until then, custody had ranged from joint physical and legal to me holding full physical and majority legal custody, which meant that I was able to override anything my ex did if I didn't like it. My daughter is an adult now. She just graduated from a good private college.
- —Guest justme
Joint Legal Custody
- My ex husband and I have joint legal custody. When I have asked about religion or any "major" decision for our son he goes into a massive temper tantrum. I try to make good choices for our child such as attending a Christian Church, but my ex thought it better to involve our son in a Satanic Cult that he had joined. I am in the process of getting legal proceedings going and it is going to be a battle, but I feel for the good of my child, my ex does not deserve to have legal custody. I have raised our son on my own and now he is in Kindergarten and my ex won't even read for 20 minutes the second night he takes him. I try to avoid confrontations, but I want my child to be a well-rounded individual and - quite honestly - not like his dad. I try to involve him with P&T conferences and anything involving the kid, but he never shows or doesn't care, as it interferes with his girlfriend and her kids. I make all the decisions and am open and honest with my son, who is 5, in all of the questions he asks.
- —Guest Michelle
Lack of Responsibilities
- I am single father of a three-year-old girl. I have been raising her since she was 15 months old. As of January 2010, our divorce was final with mutual agreements that I have full residential custody and the ex has parenting time three days a week. My biggest challenge is when my ex fails to meet her obligations based on our stipulation documentation, such as not showing up on time to pick up the baby and the lack of caring when baby is with her. It is always "me" to offer to watch our baby when she has to work. And lateness is always a problem. Because I love my daughter, I avoid all confrontations, but I do feel that I am being taking advantage of. We went through an ugly divorce and I fought hard to be where we are. I learned to document everything because I can never trust my ex. We are respectable and only co-exist because of our daughter.
Joint Legal and Joint Physical Custody
- My problem with my ex is that he makes decisions without my knowledge. I know he can not do that without my permission, but he does not listen. I do not have the money to go to court, either.
- —Guest mindi