What does 50% legal custody actually mean?


In theory, you can deny to pay expenses that you did not approve with shared legal custody. BUT as one poster on here will tell you, there’s at least one judge out there who doesn’t beleive in being equal and you may end up having to pay regardless.
Shared legal custody means that you have an equal say in educational, religious and medical decisions regarding your child and any other major decision in their lives. Along with access to any medical records or school records. My suggestion is that if you still have your attorney, have him/her send a letter to your ex explaining the necessity to inform you of these decisions prior to making them or expecting payment.
If your ex has primary physical custody then child support should cover any ordinary expenses. She would need to modify support to cover extraordinary expenses such as tuition.
Go back and read your paperwork, if there is any. If your paperwork does not state that you will cover 1/2 of any expense for the child, then I would suggest that you let her know that she alone is responsible for this tuition because she did not inform you or notify you prior to enrollment and that is an expense that you did not agree to. If you are supposed to pay for 1/2 of everything for the child, I suggest putting your foot down on this part about not being informed and allowed to make decisions. Let your ex know that this can be taken back to court for a judge to clarify what is needed to share custody.


Thanks for your response.

I dont mind doing this if it is really the best thing for my child. Ive never had a problem with doing what is right “for them”.

My problem comes in with the lack of involvement in the process and how is that something that can be enforced?



I do understand that you are not making an issue of the tuition itself but there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Your child is important to you and I understand that you want what is best. But what is best for your child should not be at the expense of your rights as his father. My suggestions are for you to be able to get the respect you deserve as the child’s father and a decision maker in that child’s life. You must make a stand on this or it will keep happening.

If your papers say that you will pay for 1/2 of all expenses for the child in addition to child support but you have legal custody and are being excluded from decisions that you end up paying for then I suggest contacting the attorney. Let the ex know that the issue can be taken to court and defined by the judge. As I said, you may still end up paying, in that instance, but it will be clarified that the ex needs to inform you and include you in decisions of this nature. Sometimes just the mention of going back to court can help. I’m not suggesting threatening court, but suggesting that if this behavior does not stop that you will have no other choice.

Now, if your papers say that you pay child support in $x amount to the mother and nothing is specified for extraordinary expenses over and above what child support will cover, then I suggest, on principle you let her know that since you were not informed and allowed to be involved in making this decision, you will not be helping her pay this. I’m not suggesting that you do this because you don’t want your son to go to this school, but that you do this to make the point…

You can always agree that you will pay half of this directly to the school but that the prior 3 months should be her responsibility since you were not informed.

Again, these are only my suggestions and there may be some other options that others can suggest…

Good luck!


Yes, your ex should be including you in these important decisions. If she is not, you may want to see about getting a parent coordinator. A parent coordinator would be a third party who could make decisions if you do not agree. Because the third party would be making decisions and would charge you a fee for their services, it often has the effect of improving the communication between the parents.

Helena M. Nevicosi
Attorney with Rosen Law Firm

4101 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 500
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
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Charlotte, NC 28262
Main Phone: (704)307.4600
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The response posted above is based upon the limited factual information made available and is not intended as a full and complete response to the question. The only reliable manner to obtain complete and adequate legal advice is to consult with an attorney, fully explain your situation, and allow the attorney sufficient opportunity to research the applicable law and facts required to render an accurate opinion. The basic information provided above is intended as a public service only, a full discussion with an attorney should be undertaken before taking any action. The information posted on this forum is available for public viewing and is not intended to create an attorney client relationship with any individual. These answers are provided for informational purposes only, a person should consult with their own individual legal counsel before taking any action that could affect their legal rights or obligations.


My ex-wife just informed me that she has enrolled our son at a private school. She tells me that he starts this Monday. Tuition is over $400 a month total and we now owe for the last 3 months, since the school collects tuition all year round.

If this really is the best thing for my son, I have no problem with it. My problem comes in with the lack of notice. She consistently makes changes to the kids schooling/lives and hardly ever asks for my advice or opinion. Sometimes I even get the news from my kids.

The seperation agreement says I have 50% legal custody. Is there anything I can do to get her to include me on these decisions??? I have brought this up before with her and there is always a “good reason” why she didnt. Either there was a deadline on the decision and she didnt have time to consult with me or it was a once in a lifetime deal and she had to take it, etc.

This is very frustrating for me and makes me feel like more of a babysitter than a parent. My fiance has about had it and is ready to pack her bags and leave.

Is there any legal ground for her to HAVE to consult me? If she comes to me with these expenses, can I just deny them or will the courts say I have to pay anyway?