Legal Decision-Making

Legal decision-making, formerly known as legal custody, involves decisions on issues such as health care, education, religious training and personal care. Legal decision-making can be joint, joint with final say or sole, meaning one of the parents makes the decision without consultation with the other.

Joint legal decision-making means that the two parents make decisions together after consulting with each other. These decisions can be made by consulting with each other in person or by telephone. They can also be made through email or text. If the parents cannot agree on a decision, they generally need to go back to mediation. If agreement still cannot be reached, then the matter may have to be heard by the court at a trial or at a post dissolution Order to Appear Hearing.

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If the parents cannot communicate with each other and reach joint decisions together, then one or the other of the parents will likely be granted sole legal decision-making which means that this parent will make all of the decisions on health care, education, religious training and personal care without consulting with the other parent or obtaining their approval. These decisions can also be divided among the parents with one parent being awarded sole legal decision-making in one or more categories and the other parent being awarded sole legal decision-making in the remaining categories.

A hybrid of this legal decision-making scheme is joint legal decision-making with final say. If joint legal decision-making with final say is ordered, the parents must still consult with each other on all legal decision-making, but, if they are unable to agree, one of the parents is appointed by the court to make the final decision without the agreement of the other parent.

The courts generally prefer joint legal decision making as the law clearly provides that both parents should have a meaningful say in the lives of their children and the way in which they are raised.

*The information in this message is general and should not substitute for the advice and counsel of a licensed attorney.