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Parental Decision Making

With the joys of having children comes a huge responsibility for parents. Aside from having to care for and raise them, parents have to make tough decisions that will be of the child’s best interest. These include decisions about medical care, education, mental health, religion, etc. 

These are tough matters to decide on when you are a happily married couple, let alone when you’re divorcing! If a couple has children, they have to put all their issues aside in order to work together for the sake of their kids. They need to have really good communication to become effective joint parents. 

When children are involved in a divorce, the courts will have to decide on who gets the final say on decisions regarding the children. They can either order joint decision making power or give sole authority to one parent. 

How do courts allocate decision making between two parents?

There is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to parental decision making. The courts have a lot of factors to look into to decide how decision making powers will be allocated. But ultimately, it all depends on the best interest of the child. 

Parental decision making can either be joint in all areas, sole in all areas, or specifically divided where one parent has sole decision making power regarding education, for example. And another has sole decision making power on medical matters. 

There are different ways that decision making power can be allocated. But the most common is joint decision making. Courts generally lean into this because it’s always best for a child to have the input of both parents. 

What happens if the parents cannot agree? 

Joint decision making is encouraged because the courts want parents to come together and balance each other’s opinions to decide on what is best for the child. However, some parents just have a history of disagreeing and have trouble communicating with one another. 

In this case, they should consider getting a parenting coordinator and a decision maker. These are third party professionals who have binding authority to help a family when they reach an impasse about a major decision. A decision maker can help the parties sit down, discuss their opinions, listen to both sides, and then render a final, binding decision. 

Is it better to have a decision maker than to go to a judge? 

It’s more practical for families to have a decision maker help them resolve disagreements and come to final decisions. This means that the parties don’t have to go and litigate in front of a judge regarding the issue and wait months before a final decision is reached. 

With a decision maker, binding decisions are rendered quickly. These professionals are more familiar with the family, how they behave, how they think, and how tight-knit they are. So they will be able to make better decisions that serve the child’s best interest. 

When does the court grant sole decision making power? 

More often than not, judges lean towards joint decision making. It’s quite rare for them to grant or order sole decision making. The only instances are if there is a long history of domestic violence supported by a preponderance of evidence. 

Courts can also grant sole decision making power if there is no credible evidence of the parents being able to have productive conversations or communication about decisions pertaining to the kids. 

In cases where domestic violence is present, the courts are going to protect the victim and prevent the cycle of violence from continuing. And they do this by limiting interactions and granting sole decision-making power to the victim. 

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Todd
Burnham

Founding Partner

Boulder

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