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What is joint legal custody?

Parents who go through a divorce in Alaska are sometimes able to work out an agreement where they share custody of their children. Joint legal custody does not necessarily mean that both parents will share physical custody of the children. Instead, it is an arrangement where both parents share equal rights to make the important decisions that affect their children's lives.

Some of the decision-making responsibilities that are shared by parents who have joint legal custody concern the education and religious training of their children. Parents with joint legal custody may also have equal rights to make decisions about their children's health care. Because working together to make every decision in a child's life can be difficult for divorced parents, many parents with joint legal custody agree to divide responsibilities. A court may also allocate the right to make certain decisions to one parent or the other.

Parents who have agreed to joint legal custody of their children may also share physical custody. Although parents may choose to divide time with their children equally, joint physical custody is any arrangement where both parents have physical custody of their children for at least 30 percent of the year.

A parent who is going through a divorce may want to seek joint legal custody so that their children can maintain a close relationship with both of their parents. Because joint legal custody requires that parents cooperate on decision-making responsibilities, drafting a detailed parenting plan as part of a divorce settlement is crucial. An attorney may be able to represent a parent who is seeking a joint legal custody agreement and help to ensure that the parenting plan is in the children's best interests.

Source: Women's Law, "Custody", December 22, 2014

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