Last time, we began looking several changes made by a child custody law that went into effect this year. As we noted, some of the changes were substantive and other merely involved language, but in either case, an experienced attorney should be able to leverage these changes to help advocate for the interests of a parent.
The substantive changes made to decision-making responsibilities, again, are that parents now have the ability to allocate responsibility between themselves for different areas of a child’s life. This is different from before, when all decision-making authority was the responsibility of either one or both parents.
Decision-making authority, under state statute, refers to matters pertaining to education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities. For some couples, it will be impossible to come to an agreement in certain of these matters. For a couple in which it one parent cares about a child’s religious education whereas the other doesn’t, giving that parent decision-making authority in that area might allow the other parent to have more control over another area he or she cares about more, such as education.
Negotiating decision-making authority can allow a couple to more quickly resolve matters of custody, particularly because courts do give deference to agreements between parents, provided those agreements are in the best interests of the child. As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, advocacy in child custody cases is certainly about the rights and interests of the parents, but it is primarily about the best interests of the child. Knowing how to advocate for a parent according to the best interests of the child takes skill and experience.