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Joint Custody–Defined

Dena Standley | November 14, 2022

Dena Standley
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Dena Standley, BA

Dena Standley is a seasoned paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in legal research and writing, having received a certification as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal from Southern Technical College.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Joint custody can be the best option for a child with divorced parents.

Summary: Children benefit from a healthy relationship with both parents, and joint custody is intended to foster shared parenting responsibilities.

Joint custody (shared custody) refers to the arrangement made by both parents in which they share decision-making rights and the child's physical well-being. Joint custody arrangements are made during the divorce hearing, and the execution is defined in the court order. Shared custody can have a different meaning depending on:

  • The unique situation of both parents
  • The plan the parents create
  • The judge's determination of how it should be done

Family law recognizes that every child needs to have a close relationship with both parents, even if they divorce. Joint custody makes it possible when it shares the responsibilities while considering the child's best interest.

Ideally, both parents should have equal rights. Sometimes, this doesn't happen because of factors such as financial capabilities, the proximity of parents, history of violence, and parents' inability to communicate.

Today, we will give you a deeper understanding of joint custody by exploring various aspects surrounding it.

There are different types of joint custody

Joint custody can mean different things and may be challenging to understand. But in reality, two types of joint custody are recognized in law: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Let's discuss each in detail.

Joint legal custody

Joint legal custody entails the rights both parents have for making important decisions concerning the child. These decisions include schooling, religion, healthcare, daycare, and extracurricular activities. When parents are bound by joint legal custody, they must consult one another before making major decisions for the child.

Notably, joint custody is enforceable even if one parent is the primary caregiver (lives with the child full time). The courts always ensure both parents have a right to make decisions for their children, even in circumstances where the judge may see it unfit for one parent to live with the child.

Joint physical custody

Joint physical custody entails the child's day-to-day care and whether both parents get equal or varying periods with the child. The daily involvement includes providing basic needs, ensuring the child is in school, disciplining them, and providing round-the-clock care at home.

Most courts advocate for joint physical custody and ensure both parents get equal time with the child if they are available and committed to the task.

Another variation of physical custody is joint custody with supervised visitation. This arrangement occurs when the parent is not allowed to go with the child to their home but is given regular supervised visits to see the child in the other parent's home.

Joint custody schedule

A joint custody plan can be complex to create and maintain, considering the diverse programs, different locations, and often strained relationships between the parents. Hence, when creating a schedule, ensure you customize it to fit the family's and, most importantly, the child's needs. The table below gives you seven (most popular) joint custody schedules that you can use as they are or customize further to your needs:

Joint Custody Schedule Types

Joint custody schedule What it entails
Alternating weeks Child switches between parents weekly
Alternating weeks with midweek visit Child visits parent A one day within the week when they are at parent B's place for the week
Alternating weeks with midweek overnight Child spends one night with parent A while they are with parent B for the week
2-2-3 rotation Child spends two days with parent A then two with parent B, followed by three with parents A and vice versa
3-4-4-3 rotation Child spends three days with parent A then four days with parent B, followed by four days with A and three with B
3-3-4-4 rotation Child spends three days with parent A, then three days with parent B, follow by four with A and four with B
2-2-5-5 rotation Child spends two days with parent A, then two days with parent B, followed by five with A and five with B

How does child support work with joint custody?

It is is a common practice that no parent receives child support if both parents share the expenses of the child’s care equally and each parent’s income is equitable. However, if one parent has custody, or there is a substantial income discepency betweent eh parents, the judge may order the other parent to send financial aid to the custodial parent until the child is 18 years old or is emancipated. Let's look at a real-life scenario to illustrate what we’ve discussed.

Example: Matt and Tabby's court ruling on child custody stated that Tabby had custody of the child for five days and Matt for two days. To this effect, Tabby requested child support due to the weight on her side for child care. The judge refused. On appeal, the presiding judge affirmed the previous ruling but changed the joint custody to 50/50 instead of 70/30. Dissatisfied with the decision, Tabby appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, and the justices reverted the 50/50 joint custody because it wasn't in the best interest of the child. And the court awarded her child support but calculated the amount she would need using the state’s joint custody calculation formula.

Joint custody can be effective for families and enable them to enjoy a fulfilling relationship even in separate homes. As such, ensure you create a parenting plan and review it as things change for you, your ex, or your children.

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