Shared Legal Custody – Maybe Not

In the heat of a divorce, it’s sometimes tempting to agree to share legal rights and responsibilities with the other parent, just to get the case over with and move on.  How often I hear, “I just want this over with!”  I can only say, “It can be over tomorrow if you simply accept the last offer that was on the table.”  The last offer might include shared legal rights and responsibilities.

That seems kind of harmless.  What could happen?  Well – plenty.  Just think about it – you’re getting divorced from this person. Communication is probably a big issue.  Also, you may not see eye to eye on how to live; you might have different values.  Those differences can rear their ugly heads down the road when you have some decisions to make for the children, such as what school to go to, and whether to get or not get certain medical treatments.

When you share legal rights and responsibilities, you have to go to mediation before going back to court over one of those issues.  Mediation is a great way to settle disputes:  it’s private, confidential and much faster and less contentious than going to court.  However, if you’ve got an issue which is either/or – mediation isn’t going to solve that.  There’s no middle ground, no gray area.  If everyone knows you have the right to decide, after informing and consulting with the other parent, then choices are made, and there’s no fight.  Life just goes on.

When the court awards shared legal rights to the parties, it never wants to see you again; it expects that you and your ex-spouse will figure things out.  So, be sure that no matter what comes up, you and your ex will work things out in the best interests of your children, and you will never have to go back to court.