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When couples separate or divorce, custody and access to your children is one of the most important issues to settle. Court custody battles are nasty, consume a lot of time and drive the cost of your divorce sky high. Often, the outcome of a highly contested child custody battle, affects the child/ren the most. It is fairly typical for family law lawyers therefore to recommend that their clients reach a negotiated settlement with their ex.  Civil discourse is always preferred and spares the child/ren from any traumatic courtroom battles.

The term custody denotes the right to make major decisions about your child/ren.  If one parent has sole custody, it is only this parent who is responsible for making all major decisions about the child/ren. When there is joint custody however, both parents are expected to make all major decisions about their child/ren, together. Various matters relating to the child/ren will need to be addressed. These include dealing with custody and access during the school year. Arranging children’s transportation, homework, participation in parent-teacher meetings, unique scheduling for special occasions and, of course, the costs associates with attending school would all need to be discussed.

As the term implies, joint custody means that the child/ren spend (approximately) an equal amount of time with both the parents. Since the child/ren will be in the care of one parent or the other on any given day, typical decisions regarding the wellbeing of the child/ren are made by the parent in whose care the child/ren are in. However, should a major decision arise at any time, the expectation remains that the absent parent will be consulted and that a decision can be reached jointly.

That said, perceiving which decisions are “major” and which are “minor” may be viewed differently by each parent. If left unchecked, it will most certainly become a source of tremendous conflict. Clear definitions should be agreed upon immediately to ensure that both parents are on the same page. If you continue to encounter resistance and/or a difference of opinion still lingers, it might be a good idea to consult a mediator. Resolving the issue(s) amicably is always preferred, and if you can keep the matter out of court where the final decision will be rendered by a judge, that would surely be best for everyone.