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Back to school: which parent has the final say?

At the end of every school term, when that final bell rings and your young child joyously races for the exit, you take a deep breath and prepare yourself for the summer. You've almost made it through. The new fall term is just around the corner.

Schools throughout Tulare County, California, are starting classes next month, one district as early as August 3 - Sundale. Though most of the county's school districts resume classes on the 10th and 11th, a couple are holding out until the 22nd.

While this is typically a busy time, there may be some added challenges if mom and dad are no longer together. You probably have questions about your rights and scope of oversight regarding your son or daughter's schooling and extracurricular activities.

Custody in California

California law recognizes legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody determines where your child lives or spends most of his time. This may be a joint arrangement where physical time with your child can be shared between both of you equally, or more commonly, close to equal time with one parent having a bit more than the other. Alternatively, this may be a primary or sole arrangement, in which your child lives with only one of you and the other has visitation rights.

Legal custody addresses how decisions are made for your child, his upbringing, schooling, religious tutelage, medical decisions, travel and other pertinent choices and important issues regarding your child's welfare and how he or she is raised. This too is set up as either a joint or sole arrangement. With respect to schooling, this aspect of custody determines which parent gets to make decisions.

Understanding who has final say

Your custody arrangement is the first basis for determining who has final say in educational decisions. If your spouse has sole legal custody, than you will likely have little to no say in the matter.

The more common arrangement of joint legal custody is much more of a gray area. Essentially, you hash out these types of details when you draw up the custody arrangement. This spotlights the importance of retaining the counsel of a knowledgeable California family law attorney when you are going through a divorce.

A well-designed parenting plan spells out these details to address school decisions, extracurricular activities, how to choose a school and so much more. It will also set up a plan for handling disagreements, like using an arbitrator who can help you both come to an agreement.

As you can see, the negotiation phase of a custody plan is a crucial step in designing an arrangement that works best for your child and both parents. If you are facing this challenge, contact a compassionate child custody attorney to receive experienced legal guidance.

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