Too often we hear a client being adamant they want “final say”. Main reason being they can’t get along with the other parent or the parents “just can’t agree on anything”. The fight for “final say” has become so common, it’s almost part and parcel with the fight to be crowned the primary caregiver.
How easy is it to convince a Judge to grant “final say” to one parent? Nowadays, it’s a lot easier to do than 7 or so years ago. Seven or so years ago, we would have seriously discouraged the fight – in most cases – as the Judge during that time would consistently not grant that request, and thus, end the fight right at the front door. Times have changed. We would now ask for it and only discourage the fight if circumstances warranted; like if the parents had shared custody of their kids and the arrangement was actually working. We have been successful obtaining the privilege of “final say” for clients and have been on the other side when it was granted to the opposing party (not a good feeling BTW). Note it is a privilege, not a right granted at law.
“Final say” is powerful because, as one Judge years ago said to me, it cloaks one party will great power over the other and essentially creates a sole custody situation in a joint custody arrangement. That parent has veto power; essentially the head honcho! If the other parent does not agree, then too bad. The one with “final say” doesn’t really care anymore about getting along and making joint decisions because she/he gets to do what she/he wants. In my experience, 9 times out of 10, it is the mother who wants to fight for “final say”; most often because “he won’t communicate…he won’t agree…he’s a manipulator…control freak…it’s his way or the highway…”
Throughout my 16 years in court, I recall one or two dads obtaining “final say” but recall countless mothers being lucky in that department. Is that fair? Well that same Judge scolded me years ago… “Ms. Donovan! Fair?! The law isn’t supposed to be fair!” With “final say” the parents are still expected, and often ordered, to discuss, consult and try to come to a joint agreement. However, if unsuccessful, then with “final say”, the parent uses her power of veto and makes the decision she wanted in the first place. It is not to be abused, as they say, but it often is. The positive side is if “final say” is used carefully and respectfully, the veto can ensure that decisions are made for kids that must be made; it can turn down the conflict a bit because one parent no longer has to chase the other for “agreement”; no more begging for cooperation, or to see one side.
So like most things, there are two sides of the coin and like everything, it just depends which side you are on! Moral of the story is if you are on the hunt for sole custody and you have been advised it is unlikely to be ordered by the court, you may also try for an order for “final say”.
All for now,