Joint Custody is now favored by the courts in 37 of the 50 states. Basically it means the child has access to both parents (as they should). Joint legal Custody means that you both have custody but you both also have a legal right in decisions regarding the child, i.e., whether he gets braces or not, access to school records, and such. In cases where both parents have Joint Legal custody, studies show more often than not, the two parents begin to work together because they have to. For more information go to www.f4j.com .
There is no formal definition of “joint custody,” “joint legal custody,” or “joint physical custody” here in NC. Nor is there any statutorily-mandated or common law presumption in favor of any type of “joint custody,” either.
Is your “custody agreement” incorporated into your divorce decree or part of any court order? If not, I’m afraid you’re SOL, my friend. The custody provisions of unincorporated separation agreements cannot be enforced.
If you want to be part of your son’s life and actually parent him, you’ll likely need to return to court and have a judge set custody. Based on what you’ve written, it seems to me your ex does not value your role in your son’s life. You might try to negotiate with her a bit, but don’t waste too much time on it because the likelihood of success is small.
If you have joint legal custody then you need to go back to court and have the judge define it for your ex. Most parents believe that since they have physical custody that means that they make all the decisions and that’s simply not true. That means that they have the responsibility of taking care of the child on a day to day basis. With joint legal custody, the parents are supposed to agree on the big decisions such as religion, school and medical. If your ex is doing this now, then she obviously does not respect you as his father. Sadly, it will probably take the court defining it for your ex to see that it is in your children’s best interest. You could file a motion to show cause since she is moving away and has switched your son’s school. When you do go to court make sure that the holidays are specified.
You can take control over your ex “minimizing” your contact with your son. Make sure that your visitations are taken and do NOT vary from the schedule. You can call him every day. You can visit his school for lunch. Write him letters or send e-mails if he has access to a computer. Make sure that HE knows he can contact you any time he wants and how to contact you. Luckily, children do grow up and believe it or not they do eventually realize when one parent is trying to alienate the other. As long as you communicate to your son your desire to see and spend time with him, he will eventually see that it’s his mother not you that is limiting contact.
Good Luck and keep us posted.
Having read some of the horror stories out there I almost hesitate to ask, but…
I’m wondering about the issue of joint legal custody…my ex has made sweeping decisions re: our son without consulting me and seems to be intent on minimizing my contact with him altogether. For example, she enrolled him in a school in a city an hour away (she wants to move there and took a job at the school) though she still lives here and commutes with him each day. I was told in a phone message by my 7 year old the night before. She has kept him out of Scouting rather than let me participate. At Thanksgiving my family had planned to visit for the holiday, driving over six hours to be here. The plan had been in place for over a month but it was not my weekend for visitation. At the last minute she decided to take him to the home of a male friend out of town rather than allow him to participate. These are but a few examples but I’m wonderng if I would benefit from returning to court. The custody agreement specifies ‘joint legal custody’ but doesn’t define it.
Any input would be welcome.