Under Minnesota law, there are two ways a parent can have custody of their child(ren): legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody does not pertain to where the children live or how the children’s time is allocated between each parent’s home. Legal custody pertains to the sole or joint authority to make decisions for a child regarding academic, religious and medical decisions.
It is presumed that two parents will share legal custody (“joint legal custody”) and usually one parent will have “sole legal custody” only if both parents agree to this, or if there is an express reason why one parent should not have joint legal custody.
Many separated and divorced couples who have a high level of conflict will not fare well sharing joint legal custody. But in many cases, high conflict does not necessarily correlate with joint legal custody being problematic. Sometimes there are parents who argue about finances or parenting schedules or any number of issues, but they do not have disagreements about academic, religious and medical decisions. Attending the neighborhood public school may be a no-brainer. One parent may not have strong feelings about the child’s religious upbringing, which allows the other parent to proceed uncontroversially with the child’s involvement in religious activities. And parents who otherwise bicker may not have disputes about medical care because they both trust the child’s pediatrician.