Confusing Custody Choices: Joint And Shared Custody

Of prime importance to parents being divorced is anything connected to minor children. Parents today have more than one or two choices when it comes to custody arrangements but most parents choose between two popular ones: joint custody and shared custody. If you think they both sound like the same thing, you are not alone in your puzzlement. To clear things up, read on.

Understanding Legal Custody

The confusion about terms stems from the way custody is divided both physically and legally. Legal custody and physical custody aren't the same thing. Legal custody covers almost all parents, regardless of marital status. The only way to lose legal custody of a child is by adoption, emancipation, or a judge ordering that a parent is unfit to parent. This can happen when the parent commits crimes, abuses the child, etc. That means that nearly all divorced parents have legal custody of the child even if the child resides primarily with one parent or the other. Legal custody allows parents to be equally responsible for issues like religion, discipline, education, medical issues, and more. It means that both parents are expected to have input into the day-to-day life of a child until they are no longer minors.

Joint Custody With or Without Sole Physical Custody

When one parent is chosen to be the sole physical custodian of a child and both parents have legal custody, that is known as joint custody in many parts of the country. In some cases, one parent may be better suited to care for a child while the other parent is provided with visitation privileges. This type of arrangement may be better for younger children who don't deal well with being shuffled back and forth between the two parents' homes.

Shared Custody With Joint Legal Custody

Here, both parents spend approximately equal amounts of time with the child and both parents have legal custody of the child. This form of custody may also be known as 50/50 parenting, although it may not be possible to divide time up perfectly between the parents. The child will be spending about 50% of their time with each parent and the way that occurs is up to the parents when they create their parenting plan during the divorce. Most parents take the child's school and other obligations into account and try to disrupt things as little as possible. For example, the child might stay in one home during the school week and with the other parent on weekends and school holidays.

For help with your custody choices during a marriage dissolution, speak to a divorce lawyer.