Joint custody means that both parents must agree on major decisions that affect their child. One parent cannot decide these things without the agreement of the other. If they disagree, they must find a way to resolve it, which could include mediation or Court. Courts do not like to order joint custody if the parents are unable to make these decisions together. Joint custody works best when parents share similar ideas about how to raise their child. Sometimes parents with joint custody divide up the decision-making. For example, one parent may make medical decisions while the other makes the educational ones.
If one parent has sole custody, this means that he or she can make all the important decisions without the agreement of the other, even if the other disagrees. Sometimes the parent with sole custody must talk to the other parent before making a decision, although the requirement for consultation still leaves the parent’s decision-making ability unfettered.
Some parents assume that if the parent with sole custody predeceases him or her, the surviving parent gets custody. This is not necessarily true. A parent with sole custody can choose who will have custody for the first 90 days after death. The chosen person, or anyone else, can then apply to the Court for custody.
The parent with just access still has rights to ask for and be given information about his or her child’s health, education and welfare from the other parent or places or people, such as schools, hospitals and doctors. For some of these requests, such as hospital and doctor records, the parent with sole custody may first need to give written permission. Each parent is entitled under the Education Act to his or her child’s school records.
By Charles Baker