Joint Legal Custody and Asking for Permission

Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. posted in Child Custody on Tuesday, April 08, 2014.

By Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.

Why do I have to ask her permission if the activity is not on her time?

Joint legal custody gives parents the right to have a say in their child’s upbringing. However, it also comes with the responsibility of involving the other parent in decision making. While there are parents who are able to maintain open and honest communication about their child after a divorce or paternity proceeding, that is not every couple. Following a dissolution or paternity case there are often feelings of anger, resentment, or distrust. While these are all valid feelings, they can have a very negative impact on parents who share joint legal custody. These formerly attached people have to communicate about choosing doctors, children’s activities, religion, and education among other often sensitive topics. While these conversations can be difficult and emotionally trying, there are potential negative consequences of not having them.

Joint legal custody often also comes with shared expenses. Where one parent makes a choice and enrolls a child in an activity, but fails to communicate with the other parent, there comes a question of who bears the financial burden and whether the child can continue in the activity. For example: During his custodial time, Dad enrolls Child in very expensive horseback riding lessons to prepare Child to become an Olympic Equestrian. None of the classes occur during Mom’s custodial time, so Dad does not consult with her. The Parenting Plan entered in the divorce however, requires that the parents agree before making any decisions related to the child’s extracurricular activities, but does not require that the extracurricular costs be agreed to before the expense is incurred. When Dad tells Mom she owes him half of the costs of the Child’s horseback riding classes Mom is furious. Unbeknownst to Dad, Mom had a traumatic horseback riding incident when she was a child, and is now refusing to pay her portion of the cost and doesn’t want the child to continue riding. The question then becomes whether Dad can take Mom to court to pay, and whether Mom can take Dad to court to stop the child from continuing horseback lessons.

Sometimes a parent will say they don’t object to an activity, but cannot pay. In other instances, the parent may not object and may agree to pay. If a parent was not consulted and does not agree to pay, however, there is precedent in Missouri that regardless of whether the parent was consulted when the expense was incurred, the parent’s attendance at the activity, coupled with a failure to object to the child’s participation, is sufficient to find the parent consented to the child’s involvement, and was responsible for their share of the expense.

It is these types of situations that communication between the parties is essential, and a failure to communicate can incur the disdain of the Court. Understanding your rights and obligations under joint legal custody can be confusing. An experienced family law attorney can assist you in understanding these and other matters that come with co-parenting with joint legal custody.

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