Joint custody can be a confusing term because it means a couple different things and may not really be the right term for the situation you picture when you hear the term. First, you need to know is it joint legal custody, joint physical custody or both? And, a child can spend a lot of time with both parents, even if the parents do not have joint custody. So, let’s break it down a bit.
Legal Custody vs Physical Custody
Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make major decisions such as:
- What school the child attends
- Medical decisions
- Decisions regarding religious issues
The parent that the child lives with has physical custody.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody is quite common. Both parents participate in major decisions affecting the child and must consult with each other on these decisions. You can have joint legal custody without having joint physical custody.
Joint Physical Custody
Join physical custody means the child splits their time equally between both parents. It can be accomplished in many ways. The child may spend one month in one parent’s home and then go to the other parent’s home for a month. Time in each home can be split up into six-month periods. They might switch off from one year to the next. In rare cases, the child stays in one home and the parents do the moving back and forth.
In most cases, true joint physical custody is impractical and very hard on the child and the parents. More common are custody arrangements that give one parent physical custody, making that parent the “custodial parent” while the other parent has visitation rights that give them ample time with the child.
To learn more about joint custody and if it is right for your family, please contact an experienced family law attorney today.