Vanessa's Beef with Kobe

Hard to say we didn't see this one coming, but as a result of stealth investigative work by the stars of the show Basketball Wives, the wife of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant has filed for divorce.

According to TMZ.com, Bryant's soon to be ex-wife Vanessa was given an abundance of information from the wives of other players around the league to whom Kobe had bragged about his many sexual exploits. Ms. Bryant was well aware that her husband has not always been faithful or even a gentleman (you may recall that Kobe was charged with sexually assaulting a 24-year old Colorado woman in 2003), but apparently his extra-marital activities have increased to new, unbearable levels.

The divorce papers were filed on Friday December 16, 2011, and Ms. Bryant cited "irreconcilable differences" as the grounds for the divorce. The couple married on April 18, 2001. Ms. Bryant has asked for joint custody, but would like the children to reside with her most of the time. Ms. Bryant has also asked for child and spousal support, which Kobe says he will pay. In fact, he is still making efforts to save the marriage. No word on how, but maybe he's offered a rollback on mistresses now that his salary, too, has been rolled back as a result of the recent NBA labour negotiations.

In any event, Ms. Bryant's filing gives me the opportunity to draw your attention to some terminology that confuses a lot of people: joint custody. What does this actually mean in Canadian Family Law?

To the average person, when they hear the words "joint custody," the assumption is simply that the child or children affected by the separation spend equal time with both parents and both parents are equally responsible for all matters related to the upbringing of the children.

In reality, having custody over a child differs from access time with a child or joint residency. The custodial parent has the power to make important decisions about the care and upbringing of the children with regard to things like: religion, schooling, and medical treatment.

When parents have joint custody, they make decisions of this nature together.

When the children reside equally with both parents, decisions are not made together unless the parents also have joint custody.

Furthermore, it is possible for a parent to have sole custody, but to also spend less time with the children than the other parent. Frequency of access is not determinative insofar as making important life decisions goes. The custodial parent(s) make the final decision.

Therefore, if Mr. and Ms. Bryant end up with joint custody, as Ms. Bryant is hoping, then they will have to make decisions about their two children, namely Natalia and Gianna Bryant, together, no matter where and with whom the girls are living. So, for example, when the time comes to make a decision about what the girls should do after high school, both parents would be involved in that decision, not just the parent they are living with.

Hopefully, the Bryant family will have a speedy separation agreement, because it doesn't look like a $4 million diamond ring, bought by Kobe as "apology gift," is going to keep them together this time.

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