If you and your spouse are divorcing, you may encounter a few potentially confusing terms used to describe child custody arrangements. Shared custody and joint custody certainly sound very similar, but they are quite different. When it comes time for you to make your parenting plan (custody arrangement) be prepared by understanding the differences between these two types of custody:
Equal Shares of Parenting
When it comes to shared custody (also known as 50/50 parenting), the exact increments of time spent with the child by each parent is calculated very carefully to ensure that both parents have the about the same amount of time with the child. Parents must live near each other for this form of custody to work since the child will spend a great deal of time going back and forth from one parent to another. The time may be divided by hours, days or weeks. For example, the mother may have custody during the day for 3.5 days a week, the father then will have custody for an equal amount of time during the week.
Of course, the time of custody does not have to be perfectly equal, since the needs of the child must come first, but every effort is made to ensure that the child has the benefit of both parents in a somewhat equal measure. Parents must be prepared to be extremely organized to make this work since the child's activities have to be taken into account. This type of custody usually works better with younger children, since older children have an increased need for independence as well as social and school obligations.
The Custodial Parent Model
You might assume that joint custody would mean an equal sharing of custody, as with the shared model, but in this regard, the word 'joint" instead refers to joint decision making and responsibility. Only one parent will be designated as the holder of physical custody of the child, with the other parent participating in a well-planned visitation agreement. With this form of custody, the fact that the child actually resides with one parent should not be construed to mean that the other parent has little to no power or responsibility for the child. Important issues like education, religious training, health care, discipline, and more are expected to be discussed and decided upon jointly. Usually, a visitation schedule allows the non-custodial parent to spend time alone with the child, often on weekends or after school.
To help you decide what is best for your family, speak to your divorce lawyer today.