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Child Custody Choices: Joint Or Shared?

Decisions about child custody can be among the most contentious and emotionally-charged issues with divorcing couples. If you are divorcing, you should have a complete understanding of the two main types of child custody when you create your agreement. While shared custody and joint custody seem at first to be the same thing, they are very different, so read on to find out which type of custody will be right for you and your minor children.

Joint Child Custody

In spite of its name, this type of custody relies upon one parent only to provide the bulk of physical custody. This custody arrangement benefits parents who feel that one parent should provide the primary home for the child, which may allow for more stability for babies and young children. The non-custodial parent will normally have a specified visitation schedule, such as weekends or holidays. The "joint" in the title of this type of custody refers to the responsibilities shared between both parents for major child-rearing aspects and decisions such as education, medical and other issues.

Shared Child Custody

Every aspect of caring for the child is covered in shared custody. The parents must live near one another, since physical custody plans will be carefully laid out in the agreement and both parents will share physical custody approximately 50/50. The benefit of this arrangement is the ability for the child to spend an equal amount of time with each parent.

The parents must get along very well with each other to make this type of custody work. It takes a high level of both organization and flexibility to plan and schedule a child's life around school, social engagements and extracurricular activities and fulfill the custody arrangement. Normally, the child will require two sets of belongings for each parent. A shared engagement calendar will be a must.

Keep In Mind

The type of child custody you and your spouse choose should be carefully thought-out, however, you should understand two major facts about any issues involving minor children:

1.  Family law judges are bound by law to take the best interest of the child into account when making decisions concerning minor children, not the best interests of the parents.

2.  Any court orders and cases concerning minor children are only completely closed when the children reach the age of majority in your state, so any agreement may be modified with the filing of a hearing request.

Creating a fair, workable agreement can go a long way towards making the transition to divorced couple as stress-free as possible for both you and your children. Consult with a family law attorney for more assistance in creating your perfect child custody plan.