One of the trends in family law is that both parents often share joint legal child custody.  This means that both parents make major decisions about how to raise their children together, as they likely did during the marriage.  The divorce does not change that dynamic.  Neither parent is divorcing the children.  This did not used to be the case. For years, mothers usually were awarded sole legal custody.  Under a sole legal custody scenario, one parent, wither the mother or father, unilaterally makes all major decisions about the children.  This scenario is increasingly rare but not unheard of. It is most common, for example, when one parent is having difficulty attending to his or her own needs, maybe due to mental illness or drug use, and is therefore unable to truly co-parent with the other parent.

Custody decisions are those major decisions affecting the children, including medical, education and religion.  Examples of major decisions could include: public school versus private school, Catholic or Methodist religion, and medication for ADD or not.  When kids are teenagers, there are a lot of issues to deal with: do the children work after school or at all; how old do they have to be before they get their driver’s licenses and under what circumstances are the driving privileges revoked, what about piercing, tattoos and hair color?  Parents often have the same values.  When that is the case, these types of decisions that arise are easy to navigate.

Even parents who usually agree on major decisions affecting their children sometimes hit a speedbump where they simply cannot agree.  In those situations, parents are encouraged to try alternative methods to resolve any disputes prior to going back to court.  Good options in this respect are mediation, parenting classes, and meeting with a parenting coordinator or counselor. The judges expect the parties to make every effort to resolve differences on their own before bringing a parenting issue to them.  Often these third parties, like our family lawyers in Lexington, Kentucky, are very successful in bridging the gap on contentious disputes.