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Who makes big decisions regarding the children after a divorce?

A lot of major decisions come in connection to raising children. This includes making choices about what school a child will attend, what activities he or she will be allowed to participate in and how his or her health care needs will be met. What is chosen can have lasting implications for a child and a family. When parents divorce, one important issue that needs to be addressed is how such decisions will be made in the future.

Who will be allowed to make such determinations moving forward depends on what arrangement for legal custody is reached in a divorce. Legal custody covers decision-making authority regarding a child.

As with physical custody of a child (which touches on where a child lives), legal custody could be given primarily to one parent, or jointly to both parents. As a note, in a divorce, legal custody doesn't have to match the physical custody arrangement. One parent could be given primary physical custody of a child, with both parents still sharing joint legal custody.

Also, in addition to broadly setting whether legal custody will go solely to one parent or be jointly held by both parents, custody arrangements can set specifics as to how different types of decisions will be handled.

How is legal custody determined in a divorce? One option is that the divorcing parents could reach an agreement on decision-making authority regarding their child in a custody agreement. If parents aren't able to agree on what to do with legal custody, a court would then decide for them. As with child custody matters generally, a court's decision on legal custody will be directed towards what it finds to be in the child's best interests.

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