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Understanding legal custody and your legal rights as a parent

When a Florida couple decides to divorce, it is often most difficult for the youngest members of the family. Children are resilient, but they still feel the impact of their parents' decision to end the marriage. For this reason, parents work hard to minimize the negative impact that their divorce will have on the kids.

One of the most practical ways that you can do this as a parent is to be fully cognizant of your rights regarding custody, visitation and the role you play in the life of your child. Understanding your rights and options, as well as how to protect those rights, can help you reach decisions that are beneficial for every member of the family.

What is legal custody?

Some parents are unaware of the fact that there are different types of custody. Just because a parent has visitation rights or custody does not mean that he or she has the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. Legal custody refers to this right, which is the ability to make decisions pertaining to the following on behalf of the child:

  • Religious upbringing
  • Educational preferences
  • Health care
  • Choice of school
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Other important matters and unique issues

Some parents may be able to share decision-making responsibilities, but in many parenting arrangements, only one parent retains legal custody. Legal custody is completely separate from physical custody, which refers to where a child will spend his or her time.

You would be wise to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for child custody. What works best for your family may not work for another and vice versa. The ultimate goal for any child custody arrangement should be the protection of the best interests of the kids and continuity of lifestyle. You have the right to pursue a custody order out of court, working through negotiations and discussions to come to a final decision that works for your unique family.

The best choice for your family

When going through a divorce, it is normal to feel concerned about what will happen to your children. With a strong and thoughtful custody order, you can provide stability and security for years to come.

From the very beginning of the divorce process, you would be wise to take steps to both protect your rights as a parent and the interests of your kids. Custody is not an easy issue to address, but it is possible to come to a reasonable solution and move on to a strong future.

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