Joint Legal Custody is an arrangement by which parents jointly make important decisions for their child or children.
Joint legal custody requires that parents cooperate with each other for the benefit of their child or children. This means sharing information, communicating and discussing things about their children and working together to make the best decision for their child.
Many parents have lost joint legal custody based upon their conduct that demonstrated that joint legal custody was not appropriate. Here is a good example of how not to act if you want joint legal custody.
In the Matter of Brown v. Brown (2012 NY Slip Op 05409, 2nd Dep’t 2012) the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the Family Court terminating the parties’ joint legal custody and granting the mother sole legal custody of the parties’ six-year-old son.
The evidence at trial established that father would only communicate with the mother by e-mail and text messages. He did not inform the mother that the child had a medical condition, which required surgery, until an hour before the child underwent surgery for the condition. The father also failed to inform the mother that he was taking steps to enroll the child in a private school, which included the child being interviewed three separate times, all without the mother’s knowledge.
The Court found that the father excluded the mother from participating in significant issues relating to the child’s health, education and welfare. The result, the court terminated the joint legal custody arrangement. Now the mother can make these decisions without the father.
The moral of this story, if you have joint legal custody you need to share information about your child with the other parent and you cannot act like you have sole legal custody. If you do, you do so at your own peril.