What is legal custody?
Legal custody refers to which parent has the right and responsibility to make all of the major decisions affecting the child’s life, regarding issues such as healthcare and education. Legal custody also covers the right to access your child's educational, medical, psychological, dental, or other records, and the right to speak with/get obtain information from school officials, health care providers, counselors, or other professionals who interact with the child.*
When one parent has sole legal custody, s/he has the right to make those decisions alone. When parents have joint legal custody, the parents share the decision-making.** The decision-making isn’t necessarily shared equally - a judge can give one parent power to make certain decisions by herself/himself while both parents have equal rights and responsibilities for other decisions.***
* D.C. Code § 16-914(a)(1)(B)
** See the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program website
*** D.C. Code § 16-914(d)(2)