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Divorce: should you consider joint custody?

During a divorce, you make a number of important choices that affect your family’s future. Some of the biggest decisions revolve around your children. Who will they live with? How often will they see your ex-spouse? How much money will be given in child support payments? The questions can seem endless.

You have probably heard of joint legal and physical custody, but you might not know exactly what that entails. Let’s take a closer at this arrangement so you can decide if it might be a good option for you and your family.

What is joint custody?

There are two types of custody, physical custody and legal custody. If a parent has physical custody, they are in charge of the day-to-day care of the child. If a parent has legal custody, they have the right to make decisions regarding their child’s upbringing: religion, education, health care, etc.

In a joint legal and physical custody arrangement, both parents equally share physical custody of the child. You and your ex-spouse would approximately share equal time with your child. Additionally, both of you would share childcare decisions.

What are the benefits of a joint legal and physical custody arrangement?

  • Your child has equal access to both parents.
  • Neither parent feels like their child is being taken away from them.
  • All of the childcare responsibilities do not fall on one parent.

What are the downsides of a joint legal and physical custody arrangement?

  • Spouses must feel comfortable interacting, and be able to cordially make decisions together.
  • Your child does not have one steady home – they split their time between two residences.
  • Courts are reluctant to grant joint custody unless they are sure that parents can work together.
  • Joint physical custody can lead to complicated scheduling problems.

Due to its complications, it is more common for courts to award one parent physical custody of the child rather than splitting physical custody between parents. However, if you and your ex-spouse both want to be involved with your child’s life on a daily basis, speak with an attorney about the process of establishing a joint legal and physical custody arrangement.

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Albert Hansen, Attorney at Law
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