The custody process in Florida involves making decisions on both legal and physical custody. Many parents are concerned with physical custody, which is who the child lives with and when, but legal custody is also an important consideration.
Legal custody is the power to make major decisions on behalf of the child. Major decisions are typically decisions concerning medical care, education and religion. What time the child goes to bed or eats breakfast are generally not considered major decisions.
Why legal custody matters
Having legal custody of your child is extremely important. Without legal custody, you do not have a say in decisions that affect your child’s health and well-being.
In some cases, a parent wants to have more than just a say in these decisions. They want to make all the decisions without input from their co-parent. The only way this can happen is if they are granted sole legal custody.
A parent granted sole legal custody has the power to make major decisions for the child without the agreement of their co-parent. They do not even have to consult with their co-parent about the decision.
This might sound like exactly what you want. However, courts typically award joint legal custody.
Joint legal custody means that both parents have an equal say in making major decisions. If the parents cannot agree, the matter must be brought before a court and a judge makes the decision.
Courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. Joint legal custody, giving both parents the equal ability to make major decisions, is generally assumed to be best for a child.
When sole legal custody might be awarded
Sole legal custody is awarded in rare situations, often when one parent is unavailable or incapable of making decisions for the child. Incarceration, incompetence or evidence of abuse are factors that could result in one parent being given sole legal custody.