Joint Or Shared? What To Know About Child Custody

Divorcing couples are faced with making many important decisions when it comes to their minor children, particularly child custody. Issues about child custody tend to be emotional, and therefore potentially more contentious and complicated than other facets of divorce. To make matters more complicated, the terms about custody themselves are often confusing. Many people confuse "shared custody" and "joint custody" or believe them to be the same thing, which can result in a child custody agreement that doesn't work as well as it should. To learn more about the differences between these two types of custody, read on.

Joint Custody

This type of custody features the concept of joint decision-making and joint responsibilities by both parents, but with the physical custody of the child held by just one parent. Important issues, like education, religion and discipline, are jointly discussed and resolved by both parents, however.

Parents and family court judges understand that sometimes the child needs to reside in one place: with the parent who can best provide a stable environment. Visitation agreements in joint custody agreements can be lengthy and highly detailed, with times and dates specifically spelled out when it comes to holiday, vacation, weekend and other situations. Occasionally, travel arrangements must be made (and included in the agreement) in order to comply with the visitation schedule if the parents live far apart.

Shared Custody

Also known as 50/50 parenting or custody, this type of custody focuses on the element of time. The idea is that the child benefits from spending equal amounts of time with both parents. Parents must get along well enough to work out the details of this arrangement on their own, since the family courts decline to specify times and dates.

This type of arrangement is ideal for those parents who need flexibility and live close to one another, since both parents could be a part their child's day every day, if desired. The downside of this type of arrangement is the potential for utter chaos if both parents are not organized with scheduling and flexible. Children often have complicated schedules of after-school obligations, including classes, practices and time with friends, so parent musts have back up plans and good shared/online calendaring methods for this arrangement to work well.

It's worth noting that issues pertaining to minor children are never fully closed with the family court, which makes sense when you consider how needs change as children grow and as parents enter new relationships. Contact a divorce attorney to assist with making a good, workable child custody arrangement or to discuss the possibility of making changes to the one you have.