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Why does legal custody matter?

On Behalf of | Feb 9, 2022 | Family Law |

Rhode Island considers there are two elements to what most people call custody. First, there is physical, which is where the child lives. Second, there is legal custody.

Courts most commonly award legal custody on a shared basis. They do this to allow both parents to retain their right to make major decisions for their children.

What sort of decisions are these?

Those big decisions mainly consist of three things:

  • Health and dental care
  • Education
  • Religion

If you consider those three things, you will see there can sometimes be a crossover between religion and the other two elements. For example, you are a Catholic, and your ex is not. You would like your child to go to a Catholic girl’s school. Your ex prefers a mixed-sex school that does not take any religious standpoint.

Or, your ex is a Jehovah’s Witness and therefore will not accept a blood transfusion for themselves. Yet what if your child needed one? What if you said yes and your ex said no on religious grounds?

These are just some of the decisions you would still have to face as parents even if you were happily married. The difference when you divorce is that making those decisions can be harder because agreeing on things can be harder.

However, unless for some reason the judge awards legal custody to only one of you, little has really changed here. Just as you would not enroll your child in a school or submit them to a particular form of healthcare without consulting your spouse, you cannot do it without consulting them when they become your ex.

This is one of many things you need to understand when divorcing as parents. Getting help to find out will be crucial to protecting your rights.

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