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Understanding joint legal custody

Child custody can often be a new and complex process for Washington parents going through a divorce. Not only is dealing with sharing time with and apart from one's children often an emotionally draining topic, but the practical complexities of child custody and visitation can also make this period more difficult. Understanding the terminology used can help parents to more efficiently make decisions about custody and visitation during the divorce.

Many family courts award joint legal custody to both parents, especially when there is no environment of neglect or abuse. Joint legal child custody means that both parents share the right and responsibility to make decisions for their children about important issues like their religion, education and healthcare. While joint legal custody awards this right to both parents, it does not necessarily coincide with joint physical custody. In many cases, one parent has primary physical custody and the other has visitation while they continue to share joint legal custody.

There can be positive and negative aspects to joint legal custody depending on the parents who make use of this particular custody structure. In general, this is best used by parents who can communicate effectively and work together despite the end of their romantic relationship. It can be a poor choice when one parent is frequently unavailable or unresponsive as communication can be critical to making time-sensitive decisions. For many families, joint legal custody can improve the co-parenting relationship and cement the bond that both parents have with their children.

During a divorce, parents may have a difficult time dealing with the complexities of child custody. A family law attorney may advocate for their client and their relationship with their children throughout the divorce. The attorney may work to achieve positive results in terms of child custody, spousal support, asset division and other divorce matters.

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