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The importance of legal custody for divorcing parents

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2024 | Family Law

Custody disputes are often a side effect of a contentious divorce. People who have chosen to end their marriage to one another may worry about how changes in their family circumstances could affect their relationship with their children. They may fight to preserve their bond with their children.

It is very common for divorcing parents in Alabama to put a lot of emphasis on physical custody. The term physical custody refers to both time with the children and the obligation to provide for their needs. The parent with physical custody on any given day has to take them to school and ensure they eat.

Legal custody, on the other hand, is often treated as an afterthought during divorce negotiations. Parents may fail to recognize the importance of legal custody because they worry so much about physical custody.

What legal custody entails

Having legal custody means having the authority to make choices about a child’s needs. A 12-year-old may not understand their medical challenges or might be incapable of comprehending the long-term impact that their education may have on their future. Their parents are the ones who make choices about where they attend school and what medical care they receive while focusing on their long-term best interests.

When parents in Alabama divorce, it is standard practice for a judge to divide legal custody in addition to splitting up physical custody. Frequently, there is an expectation that parents should reach agreements on all major decisions related to their children when they share custody. Shared legal custody is common, but it is not the only option.

Sometimes, one parent may push for the final decision-making authority in certain matters because of their strong personal preferences. Other times, a parent with a vast majority of physical custody might also acquire sole legal custody so that they can manage affairs on behalf of their children.

Parents who worry about the upbringing of their children often need to address legal custody when negotiating a co-parenting arrangement. Having both an appropriate division of legal custody and rules in place for conflicts about key decisions for one’s children can be crucial for those trying to act in their best interests.