Every time I hear somebody say they want “full custody,” I think to myself, what do they think that really means? Custody is the most misunderstood word in divorce.

People think custody means all kinds of things; they usually relate it very closely to parenting time. When they say: “I want custody”, what they usually mean is “I want the children with me more than with my ex-spouse.” This is a normal request but it’s not really what custody is about.

I try very hard to only use the word custody in conjunction with legal custody. Legal custody applies only to issues of significance for example:

  • Medical decisions
  • Educational decisions
  • Religious decisions
  • Decisions about the child’s general welfare

Whether or not to eat at McDonald’s during your assigned parenting time over the objection of your ex-spouse is not a legal custodial question.

When there’s hostility between parents and they have joint legal custody, they commonly think everything is a custodial issue. So, it’s very important to ask these questions to your attorney, so you have a better understanding of what legal custody means:

  1. What does legal custody mean?
  2. What is not legal custody?
  3. What do I have to do if we have joint legal custody?
  4. What can’t I expect happen if we have joint legal custody?
  5. Is this a legal custodial question?
  6. Is this a legal emergency?
  7. Is this illegal?

I want to share a story with you. Once I had an argument not too long ago with a gentleman who was insisting that it was his assigned parenting time and, his ex-spouse had no right to object to him going skydiving with their 10-year-old. I tried to explain to him that’s not an arbitrary parenting decision. Jumping out of an airplane probably is significant. He wouldn’t agree with me. But of course, he was wrong.

When you are getting divorced you need to specify with your ex-spouse what is a significant event with your children. This is a question of collaboration in decision making. Seek the help of a parent coordination professional that can help you prioritize your children. And again, legal custody DOES NOT apply to everything.

Do you want to ask us custody questions?

Christina Previte

Christina Previte

Christina Previte, an accomplished divorce lawyer, has focused exclusively on divorce and family law since 2004. As a co-founder of Netsquire, she addresses a significant gap in the divorce industry. Christina provides couples with options for a more peaceful divorce. With degrees from Rutgers University and Rutgers Law School (Camden), including a judicial law clerk role, Christina’s experience is undeniable.

Her recognition on the Super Lawyers “Rising Star” and Super Lawyer lists reflects her commitment to transformative divorce practices. Through Netsquire, Christina streamlines divorce into three crucial steps: resolving legal matters, securing a signed settlement agreement, and navigating court filings. With a client-centric approach, Christina reshapes the divorce journey, guiding families toward smoother transitions and brighter beginnings.

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