In a Dissolution or Paternity action, many times the Court will award both parties joint legal custody so as to ensure each party has the opportunity to participate in making decisions regarding their child’s education, welfare, and health. Family Code Section 3003 states that “”Joint legal custody” means that both parents shall share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.” The spirit of sharing joint legal custody is for the parties to communicate with one another about their child. It is further the public policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy. If one of the parents refuses to cooperate or communicate with the other in making decisions regarding their child, or by frustrating the spirit of the joint custody, that party may lose legal custody. And, in some cases a party may lose physical custody as well because of their refusal to co-parent with the other party.
An example of frustrating joint legal custody is to make unilateral decisions regarding the child including, but not limited to, scheduling medical appointments that require extensive testing or surgery and scheduling psychiatric/psychological appointments without first consulting and discussing the need for the appointments with the other parent. Both parties have the right to decide which physician and for what procedure their child undergoes.
It is very important that both parents work together regarding custody or one may lose their right to participate in the decision making. Communication is the key in any custody issue.