Child custody is a major decision area when a couple divorces, and the terms used to describe the various options can be confusing to some. One example, shared custody and joint custody, sound as if they are referring to the exact same thing, but are in fact quite different from each other. This is too important an area to make mistakes, so read on to learn more about each to help you and your spouse make a sound decision.
Shared or 50/50 Custody
This form of custody endeavors to be the most fair and equal. If both parents are willing and fit to do the job, this choice can be as close to a regular parent-child relationship as before the divorce. The 50/50 division is the goal, and each parent is responsible for spending one-half of the time with the child. The way this 50% is divided up is usually up to the parents. You may have one parent taking care of week days Monday through Thursday, and the other parent taking care of the Friday through Sunday night. Or you can alternate days.
This type of custody makes both parents responsible for not only the time in physical custody, but with making all important decisions about the child together as well. Needless to say, the parents have to live near each other and the closer the better. Another issue is scheduling; the parents must be very organized and have excellent communication with each other to prevent total chaos. Shared calendars and advance planning is a must, but all these efforts can be more than worth it if it allows the child to have the advantages of spending equal amounts of time with both parents.
While this type of custody does share one aspect of shared custody, is really about choosing just one parent to be the primary physical custodian of the child. Here, both parents are legally responsible for the child, and share in all important decisions pertaining to the child. The child will live with the custodial parent, and the other parent will be given visitation orders. The non-custodial parent cannot spend more time than permitted by the custodial parent or than what the visitation agreement spells out, however. The visitation can be as permissive or as restrictive as needed, depending on the circumstances, but at the end of the day (or week, etc), the child is returned to the primary custodian.
Your choice should be based on factors like the age of the child, how close the parents live to each other, how well the parents get along, and more. Speak to a child custody lawyer to learn more about this important decision.