We frequently receive questions from people that start with, “If I have sole legal decision-making, can I …”
- change the other parent’s parenting time
- prevent the other parent taking the child on a vacation
- override the holiday parenting schedule
- determine who claims the child on taxes
- prevent the other parent’s new partner from being around the child
To answer these questions, you need to know, what is legal decision-making?
What is most often needed in these situations is a clarification of what legal decision-making means.
It’s the right to make decisions regarding your child when it comes to healthcare, education, religious, and personal care decisions. That means you can pick your child’s school, your child’s doctor, your child’s dentist, approve medical procedures, decide whether to enroll your child in counseling, decide if you want your child to be raised in a certain faith.
What is not legal decision-making?
Legal decision-making does not include the right to control the other parent regarding parenting time or child support issues. Many of the questions we listed above deal with parenting time issues, such as changing the regular or holiday schedule or determining who can be around the child in the other parent’s home
Other items, such as being able to claim the child on taxes, falls under the category of child support.
Absent an agreement between the parents, issues that fall under parenting time or child support are determined by the Court. In some instances, such as with tax exemptions and out-of-state travel, the Court has usually made orders that must be followed.
Overplaying your hand
When you have sole legal decision-making, you want to be cautious that you don’t throw your weight around. Because if you are using your sole legal decision-making to cross into parenting time and child support issues, you risk that being used against you in a possible modification.
How do I address my concerns then?
The best way to resolve any parenting issues is for the parents to talk it out. That can be difficult at times. It’s important leave emotion at the door and focus on what’s best for your child. Even then, we realize an agreement is just impossible in some co-parenting relationships. Most commonly, that is what led to you having sole legal decision-making in the first place.
The other option is to go to Court to clarify or change certain orders in the Parenting Plan. But that potentially could trigger another custody battle, so you may want to speak with an attorney before you take that step to make sure it’s the right choice for you.