Shared Or Joint Child Custody: How They Differ

Child custody issues can be among the most contentious areas when parents divorce. The level of cooperation and respect that a divorcing couple demonstrates for each other can have an tremendous effect on how long your divorce case drags on and how much money gets spent to litigate it. Making a good, fair and workable child custody agreement outside of court can be extremely beneficial; after all, who knows whats best for your child other than you?

The terms "joint" and "shared" in regards to child custody may at first appear to be the same thing, but these two forms of custody are actually quite different. It's important to know the difference, since your divorce agreement will specify the exact type that you both agree to follow, and you should ensure that you are on the same page as the court system. Read on for an explanation of the two types of child custody.

Joint Child Custody

This custody concept specifies one parent to hold primary physical custody of the child, with major decisions involving the child being made by both parents equally. A stable home environment may be important for younger children, and a generous visitation schedule allows the other parent to spend time with the child. This type of custody is ideal if the parents get along enough to come together and agree on issues related to parenting, such as education, religion, discipline and other major areas of concern. For parents who live in different states, this can be a workable solution for custody placement.

Shared Child Custody

Time spent with the child is at the center of the concept of shared custody. The percentages of time spent with each parent is sometimes spelled out, but traditionally custody agreements will allow equal time with the child for each parent. While seen as some to be the most "fair" form of custody, it can be an organizational nightmare to carry out. Parents should live in relatively close proximity for shared custody to work. While the child may benefit from being with both parents, having to keep two sets of belongings and dealing with the logistics of after-school activities and social obligations require parents with good organizational skills.

Keep in mind that child custody arrangements remain one of the issues that the courts are willing to revisit if necessary. The best interests of the child are at the forefront of the court's attitude about children, however, not issues about the inconvenience to the parents. Consult with your family law attorney for more information about the child custody arrangements and create a child custody agreement which benefits your child.