Parents who do not live together have joint custody (also called shared custody) when they agree, or a court orders them, to share the decision-making responsibilities for, and/or physical control and custody of, their children. Joint custody can exist if the parents are divorced, separated, no longer cohabiting or even if they never lived together. Joint custody may be joint legal custody, joint physical custody (where the children spend a significant portion of time with each parent) or both. It is common for couples who share physical custody to also share legal custody, but not necessarily the other way around.
Usually, when parents share joint custody, they work out joint physical custody according to their schedules and housing arrangements. If the parents cannot agree, the court will impose an arrangement. A common pattern is for children to split weeks between each parent’s house. Other joint physical custody arrangements include alternating years or six-month periods, or spending weekends and holidays with one parent while spending weekdays with the other.
Joint custody has the advantages of assuring the children continuing contact and involvement with both parents, and alleviating some of the burdens of parenting for each parent. There are, of course, disadvantages — children must be shuttled around, parental non-cooperation can have seriously devastating effects on children and maintaining two homes for the children can be expensive.
If you or a loved one are entangled in complicated child custody issues, contact an experienced child custody attorney in Sacramento today for your free initial consultation.
Click here for our Article “Ten Tips for Divorcing Parents”