Legal Custody vs Shared Custody: What’s the Difference?

When a parent has legal custody of their child, they have the sole authority to make important decisions for their child. This can include education, healthcare, religion, and living circumstances. Typically, the parent whom the child primarily resides with is the one who has legal custody. However, this would first be determined in court or by agreement of the parties. Once parental responsibility has been granted, it is very difficult to reverse. Any change in the custodial arrangement will require a showing that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. Shared custody is a non-legal term, but yet used to describe a more less equal parenting time arrangement that allows each partner to spend time with the child.

The Meaning of Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is the same as sole legal custody except that both parents share rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning the child. Joint parenting plans can be further customized so that one parent has authority to make specific decisions while other decisions must be made jointly. The family law courts in Oregon cannot order a joint decision-making arrangement unless both parents agree to it. Instead, sole custody will be awarded based on the facts present. Unlike single parent custody, joint legal custody, sometimes informally referred to as split custody can end when parents fail to settle a disagreement. Either party can request a modification of a joint custodial arrangement and ask that the court change the custody arrangement to sole legal custody, but that parent must show that there has been a substantial change of circumstances. Inability to make joint decisions is considered a substantial change is circumstances.

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