Types of Child Custody
*Joint physical custody works best if parents live relatively near to each other, as it lessens the stress on children and allows them to maintain a somewhat normal routine.
*Where the child lives primarily with one parent and has visitation with the other, generally the parent with whom the child primarily lives will have sole physical custody, with visitation right awarded to the other parent.
*A parent with legal custody can make decisions about schooling, religion, and medical care, for example. In many states, courts regularly award joint legal custody, which means that the decision making is shared by both parents.
*If you share joint legal custody with the other parent and you exclude him or her from the decision-making process, your ex can take you back to court and ask the judge to enforce the custody agreement. You won't get fined or go to jail, but it will probably be embarrassing and cause more friction between the two of you -- which may harm the children.
*What's more, if you're represented by an attorney, it's sure to be expensive. If you think you have circumstances that make it impossible to share joint legal custody (the other parent won't communicate with you about important matters or is abusive), you can go to court and ask for sole legal custody. But, in many states, joint legal custody is preferable, so you will have to convince a family court judge that it is not in the best interests of your child.
*Even where courts do award sole physical custody, the parties often still share joint legal custody, and the noncustodial parent enjoys a generous visitation schedule.
In that situation, the parents would make joint decisions about the child's upbringing, but one parent would be deemed the primary physical caretaker, while the other parent would have visitation rights.
- Joint legal custody
- Joint physical custody (where the children spend a significant portion of time with each parent), or
- Joint legal and physical custody.
It is common for couples who share physical custody to also share legal custody, but not necessarily the other way around.
Joint Custody Arrangements, when parents share joint custody, usually encompass working out a schedule according to their work requirements and housing arrangements and the children's needs. If the parents cannot agree on a schedule, the court will impose an arrangement.
- Alternating months, years, or six-month periods, or
- Spending weekends and holidays with one parent, while spending weekdays with the other. There is even a joint custody arrangement where the children remain in the family home and the parents take turns moving in and out, spending their out time in separate housing of their own. This is called "bird's nest custody."
The Pros and Cons of Joint Custody
- Children must be shuttled around.
- Parental noncooperation or ill will can have seriously negative effects on children.
- Maintaining two homes for the children can be expensive.
If you do have a joint custody arrangement, maintain detailed and organized financial records of your expenses.Keep receipts for groceries, school and after-school activities, clothing, and medical care. At some point your ex may claim he or she has spent more money on the kids than you have, and a judge will appreciate your detailed records.