Joint Custody? Sole Custody?

Collectively, the attorneys in our office have handled close to one thousand Family Court custody cases over the years. The most pressing issue that confronts the client in most cases, after deciding who gets physical custody of the children (where the kids call "home"), is joint legal custody versus sole legal custody.

Most lawyers, and properly so, advise clients that in many cases, there is no real world difference between joint and sole legal custody.

Technically speaking, parents with sole custody have an easier road to travel if they wish to relocate with the children away from the noncustodial parent. And further, with sole custody, the custodial parent alone has the right to make educational, medical and religious decisions, etc. for the children, as opposes to both parents having equal say.

So what happens when the parents cannot agree on legal custody? The case goes to trial and the Judge decides legal custody. If the trial Judge finds "acrimony and mistrust that marks the relationship between the parents", and that "the parents are unable to co-parent because of open hostility between them", then sole legal custody will likely be awarded.