Dear Cassie: Am I entitled to receive a copy of my children’s medical and academic records from my ex-spouse?

Dear V.P.:

If your Matrimonial Settlement Agreement or Judgment of Divorce identifies you and your ex-spouse as joint legal custodians of your children, you are entitled to not only a copy of your children’s medical and academic records; you are entitled to all information and documentation pertaining to your children’s health, education, safety, and welfare.

Legal custody in New Jersey refers to the right to make the important decisions impacting your children’s health, education, safety, and welfare. For example: should my child have that proposed surgery, and with what doctor? What school should my child attend? What religious practices should my children follow? There is a presumption in favor of joint legal custody in New Jersey. In cases of joint legal custody, both parties are equally entitled to make decisions and to be informed about these major issues impacting their children. In those rare cases involving one party having sole legal custody of the children, that person alone is vested with the authority to make decisions concerning these major issues.

That is not to say that joint legal custody necessarily flows with it an obligation for one parent to furnish the other parent with all documentation and information about their children. Instead, both parents should be equally invested in these major issues, and should be communicating directly with the school and medical providers to obtain the information and documentation directly from the source. Notwithstanding, there is an expectation among our courts that the parents will communicate and cooperate with one another in the best interests of their children, which could mean sharing information or documentation with the other party that one party has received, and the other party has not.

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Cassie Murphy is a divorce and family law Partner with the Law Offices of Paone, Zaleski & Murphy, with offices in Red Bank and Woodbridge.