Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Decision Making in Joint vs. Sole Custody

In the state of New York, when parents are no longer together and a determination of custody is made, many parents wonder who will get to make the major decisions for the children. No parent wants to relinquish the right to make decisions on behalf of his or her minor children, but in some circumstances it cannot be avoided.

There are essentially two types of child custody, legally - joint custody and sole custody. When one parent has sole custody of his or her children, that parent is the one who gets to make all major decisions on behalf of the child or children.

When the parents have joint legal custody of their child or children, however, the issue of decision-making becomes a bigger factor. In many, but not all, cases where parents have joint custody, one parent will have final decision-making authority. This is something that is often agreed upon between the parents and placed into their custody Order. This doesn't mean, however, that the parent with final decision-making authority has the right to unilaterally make major decisions concerning the children without notifying the other parent or discussing the options with the other parent. A typical joint custody Order will provide that the parents should discuss options when making decisions about their children, and if they do not agree as to what decision should be made, each parent should present his or her proposal to the other parent in writing. Then, only after careful consideration, the parent with final decision-making authority should render a decision, and that decision should be fully explained to the other parent.

If parents have joint custody of their children and neither parent is specified as the final decision-maker in the parents' custody Order, things could potentially get complicated. In this situation, when a major decision needs to be made on behalf of one of the children and the parents do not agree on said decision, the parents would need to go back to Court to have a determination made as to what should be done or who should make the decision. Not having a specified decision-maker in a custody Order only works well when the parents of the children can communicate civilly and can co-parent effectively and keep their children's best interests at the forefront of all decisions.

In addition, keep in mind that the decisions discussed above are major, non-emergent decisions that need to be made for the children. When a child is with one parent, any day-to-day decisions that need to be made, such as what to eat for breakfast or whether to go to the park or the movies, can be made by the parent the child is with, regardless of who has final decision-making authority. Major, non-emergent decisions that require the input of both parents include, but are not limited to, what religion the child will be raised in, what extra-curricular activities the child will participate in, whether or not the child will attend college, and the like.

If you are in need of an experienced attorney to represent you with respect to this or other issues concerning the custody of your children, call the office at (845) 867-2840 to schedule your free consultation.

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