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Defining legal custody in New York

When making child custody determinations, there is more to it than just deciding with which parent the child will live. That is known as physical custody. Another important aspect of child custody is legal custody.

When a parent is awarded legal custody, the parent has the right to make decisions about how the child will be raised. This can include key factors such as:

-- Where the child will attend school

-- What medical care the child will receive

-- What religious instruction, if any, the child will receive

Most of the time, the judge will award legal custody to both parents unless there is some specific reason why one parent should not be included. When both parents have legal custody of their child, it is called joint legal custody. If one parent has sole legal custody, then he or she makes all the decisions about the child, including those listed above.

If a parent decides to make important decisions about his or her child without including the other parent in the matter, and the court has ordered joint legal custody, then he or she could be found in contempt of court.

Child custody matters are often the most difficult to determine for divorcing parents. An experienced lawyer can help by negotiating with your soon-to-be ex-spouse's attorney to see if an agreement can be reached. If the parents cannot decide on who has primary physical custody, a visitation schedule or more, then the court will decide. It is better to have the parents determine what is in the best interests of their child than a judge who doesn't know the child or the parents.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Custody," accessed Oct. 07, 2016

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