Jackie Kong, Esq.

Jackie Kong, Esq.

Hawaii Divorce and Family Law Attorney

Challenges of Joint Custody: Understanding Key Exceptions

January 22, 2024

Joint legal custody is often seen as the ideal arrangement post-divorce, as it allows both parents to remain involved in the crucial decisions of their child’s life. However, like most aspects of family law, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are specific situations where joint legal custody might not serve the best interest of the child. This blog aims to shed light on these exceptions and provide guidance for those navigating this complex terrain.


The Principle Behind Joint Legal Custody

In joint legal custody, both parents retain the right to make significant decisions regarding their child’s welfare, including education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. This arrangement is predicated on the idea that having both parents involved is in the child’s best interest. However, certain circumstances can upend this presumption.

Situations Where Joint Legal Custody May Not Be Ideal:

1. Domestic Violence: In cases where there’s a history of domestic violence, joint legal custody can be more harmful than beneficial. The abusive parent may use their legal rights to continue exerting control and harm, directly or indirectly affecting the child.

2. High Conflict Relationships: If the parents have a high-conflict relationship and cannot communicate effectively, joint legal custody can lead to constant disputes. This ongoing conflict can create an unstable environment for the child, leading to stress and anxiety.

3. Significant Disparity in Parenting Abilities: In situations where there’s a significant disparity in parenting abilities or one parent has historically been uninvolved, joint legal custody might not be practical. If one parent lacks the capability or willingness to make sound decisions, it can be detrimental to the child’s development and welfare.

4. Geographic Distance: When parents live far apart, especially in different time zones, coordinating and communicating about decisions can become overly complex and burdensome. In such cases, joint legal custody can be more of a hindrance than a help.

5. Parental Alienation: In some cases, one parent might actively work to undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent. This toxic behavior can make joint legal custody impossible, as it relies on mutual respect and cooperation.


Navigating the Path Forward:

If you find yourself in a situation where joint legal custody seems untenable, here’s what you can consider:


While joint legal custody is often beneficial, it’s not a universal solution. Recognizing the exceptions is crucial in ensuring that your child’s best interests are always the priority. Understanding these exceptions and knowing how to navigate them can empower you to make the best decisions for your family’s unique situation.

Remember, every family is different, and what works for one may not work for another. It’s about finding the balance and arrangement that provides your child with the most stable, loving, and supportive environment possible.

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Jackie Kong, Esq.

Jackie Kong, Esq., a Hawaii Divorce and Family Law Attorney

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