Defining Legal Custody and Decision Making Authority for Your Children in Clark County Nevada
Your first consideration in any parenting agreement is legal custody. “Legal Custody" refers to your authority to make decisions for your child as well as your access to information about your child’s well-being. In Nevada, we presume that both parents will share legal custody jointly. This will require both parents to share information about their child, like report cards, meeting notices, and doctor’s reports or recommendations. Sharing joint legal custody will authorize both of you to obtain copies of medical records, seek emergency care for your child, and meet with medical providers either together or separately. These same standards would apply in educational settings as well. Both parents should be listed on school enrollment forms, both should have access to student files and information, and both parents will be allowed to participate in school activities, like attending open house, going to parent teacher conferences, or watching your child participate in an athletic event.
The court often uses the following definition of joint legal custody:
The parents shall consult and cooperate with each other in substantial questions relating to religious upbringing, educational programs, significant changes in social environment, and health care of their children.
The parents shall have access to medical and school records pertaining to their children and shall be permitted to independently consult with any and all professionals involved with their children.
All health care providers, day care providers, and counselors shall be selected by the parents jointly.
Each parent shall be empowered to obtain emergency health care for their children without the consent of the other parent. However, each parent is to notify the other parent as soon as reasonably possible of any illness requiring medical attention, or any emergency involving the children.
Each parent is to provide the other parent, upon receipt, information concerning the well being of the children, including, but not limited to, copies of report cards; school meeting notices; vacation schedules; class programs; requests for conferences; results of standardized or diagnostic tests; notices of activities involving their children; samples of school work; order forms for school pictures; all communications from health care providers, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all schools, health care providers, regular day care providers, and counselors.
Each parent is to advise the other parent of school, athletic, and social events in which their son or daughter participates. Both parents may participate in activities for the children, such as school open houses, attendance at an athletic event, etc.
Each parent will provide the other parent with the address and telephone number at which the minor children reside, and will notify the other parent within five days of any change of address or telephone number.
Each parent shall be entitled to reasonable telephone communication with the children. Each parent is restrained from interfering with the children's right to privacy during such telephone conversations.
Keep in mind that the Court will expect you and the other parent to share information about your child even if you don’t get along, and even if the other parent is difficult to communicate with. Therefore it is a good idea to start thinking immediately about ways you can comply with this information and decision sharing requirement without creating opportunities for conflict.
Some examples might include:
Set up a ParentLink account with the school district, if you have children attending the Clark County School District. ParentLink is the Clark County School District’s parent communication system for all students in grades K-12. ParentLink provides information on student attendance, grades, links to teacher e-mails and class web sites, school announcements, cafeteria information, and school calendars. If the school will allow each parent to set up a separate account than do so. If not, make sure that both parents have the login information and password for the account. ParentLink includes an email communication section. Make sure that both parents emails are listed, so both parents will receive the same communications from the school.
Consider establishing a separate email account just for communications with the other parent. You can scan medical bills, meeting notices or other information that you need to provide the other parent and attach to an email. If you are worried about privacy issues, consider a third party vendor like www.OurFamilyWizard.com.
Another idea might be to schedule a monthly meeting or phone call where you discuss your child's needs, upcoming events, or scheduling concerns. Make sure that the meeting occurs at a mutually convenient time and place. This way both parents are able to give matters their full attention, and come ready to discuss schedules or concerns.
Consider keeping a communications notebook that you hand off to the other parent when they take the child (do not have the child pass the notebook or use the child as a messenger, if you have a notebook you should give it directly to the other parent). This is an easy “low tech" way to keep up with last minute information like dosing information for medication, weekend homework projects, or training progress for young children.
By coming up with a system for appropriate communication with the other parent you will avoid the temptation to use your child as the go-between or messenger. This is very important because your child needs to understand that you and the other parent are working together for the child's best interest and your child will feel more secure if he/she doesn't have to pass on messages. This will also reduce the chance for misunderstandings.