What happens if parents with joint legal custody disagree?

Sharing custody of a child after divorce can be a challenge for parents, but it is often the arrangement that is in the best interests of a child. As such, many California parents who share legal custody will have to make decisions for their child together. 

This can create conflict when parents disagree on various matters. If you are struggling with this situation, or if you are divorcing and want to prevent such arguments from arising, you should understand how these types of disagreements ultimately get resolved.

What decisions do parents make together?

Backing up, we want to explain that parents who share legal custody have the right to make decisions for their children. However, they don’t have to consult each other before making every decision.

As explained by the California Courts, parents can make some decisions alone. For example, parents might decide on their own when a child should go to bed, how many chores they may need to do and whether they can stay over at a friend’s house.

However, larger decisions that affect a child’s well-being are best made in cooperation with the other parent. This includes anything related to a child’s appearance, education, religion, medical needs and participation in extracurricular activities.

What happens when you disagree

If parents cannot agree on a specific issue, like whether a child should take a certain medication or is allowed to get a tattoo, then the matter may need to be resolved through mediation or litigation.

Addressing disagreements in advance

While it may not be possible to foresee and plan for every disagreement you might have while sharing custody, you can take steps to prepare for any that might arise and minimize conflict. You can do this in the parenting agreement. For instance, some parents choose to assign specific decisions to one parent; others develop a process for resolving a dispute, like having a neutral third-party make the decision. 

Whatever you decide in terms of how you will make decisions when you share legal custody of your child, it is important that it is fair and does not create unnecessary pain, especially for your child.