Dannenbaum Law Firm, PLLC

The benefits and drawbacks of joint legal custody

When parents in Virginia and other parts of the country divorce, they generally work with one another to find custody and visitation arrangements that will benefit their children even when their relationships have become hostile and acrimonious. Divorcing parents may spend time negotiating physical custody and organizing visitation schedules, but they should also consider who will have legal custody of their children. While physical custody allows parents to spend time with their children, legal custody authorizes them to make important decisions about their education, health care and upbringing.

Joint legal custody arrangements can work well when divorced parents agree on significant issues such as religion, but they may not be an appropriate solution for parents who find it difficult to find common ground even when the welfare of their children is at stake. However, parents who are able to work through their differences in search of compromise set a powerful example for their children that could help them to avoid relationship problems of their own later in life.

One of the benefits of joint legal custody is it allows parents who do not live in the same state as their children or have punishing work schedules to remain involved, but these arrangements also allow parents with lingering animosity to manipulate their former spouses by acting belligerently when important childcare decisions must be made. This is why judges may be reluctant to award joint legal custody in bitter divorce cases.

Negotiating a divorce settlement is often a contentious and complicated process, but experienced family law attorneys may urge divorcing spouses to see past their differences when the welfare of young children is involved. When negotiations become deadlocked, and further progress seems unlikely, attorneys may suggest alternative dispute resolution options that take a more cooperative approach such as mediation or collaborative divorce.

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