Often, when parents begin to stress over child custody matters, their concerns surround where their children will live and which parent will have physical control over them. Matters related to the physical placement of a child are part of the child’s physical custody plan, and in Massachusetts a parent may have sole physical custody of the child or share it with the child’s other parent.
There is a second type of custody, though, that not all parents are aware of when they begin negotiating their rights to their children. Legal custody concerns a parent’s ability to have decision-making power over their kids and to have their voices heard when important matters are decided regarding their kids’ well-being. Some common topics of child-rearing that fall under legal custody are: education, religion, and medical care.
A parent does not have to have physical custody of a child in order to maintain legal custody over him or her. To this end, even if a parent is unable to serve in a custodial capacity and have the children live with them, that parent can still preserve his or her rights to be a voice of authority when it comes to managing their upbringing of the kids.
It is vitally important for parents to fight for their rights to legal custody of their children. Parents who lose legal custody lose the power to influence the course that their kids’ lives take, and also lose important opportunities to voice their concerns over the critical aspects of their children’s well-being. Although it can be hard for parents to understand that parental rights may be diminished due to child custody negotiations, they can benefit from working with family law attorneys to have advocates for them during custodial fights.