Many states in the U.S., recognize two forms of joint custody, namely joint physical custody and joint legal custody. In the former, the actual accommodation and care of the child is shared in conformity with a court-ordered custody schedule.
In the latter, both the parents have the right to access their children's educational, health, and other records. However, only one of the parents is considered to be the primary caretaker while the other parent has only visitation rights in a joint legal form.
There is also a combination joint custody, which includes features of both physical and legal forms. For example, if there is only one residence, the parents can live with the child by taking turns or on a rotation basis. Hence, both the parents have to work out their schedule as per their work, residence, and the child's requirements.
Usually, shared custody arrangements include switching months, years, or six-months periods, or living on weekends/holidays with one parent and weekdays with the other.
In any child custody case, there are many factors to be taken into consideration while making a decision. This includes the child's age, past parenting behavior, child's preference, amount of time a parent can dedicate for the decent upbringing of the child, household stability, financial considerations, and various other issues.
- In a shared legal right, separated fathers also get an opportunity to be involved with their children, unlike in sole type wherein it's the mother who is benefited most often. The fathers get to spend time on a regular and extended basis.
- It does not put the entire burden of upbringing the child on one parent, and creates an equanimity between both parents.
- It offers more security to the child, as he/she has two homes and can have a real family life with both the parents though not living together.
- The major drawback is that one has to live fairly close to his/her ex-partner for reasons like schooling, extra curricular activities, etc., resulting in social problems between the parents.
- Also, if any one parent has to move elsewhere for work or for some other reasons, a child can develop emotional problems due to lack of contact.
Hence, to avoid such situations both parents have to be flexible enough in their shared legal plan to take care of the child.
Types of Child Custody
In this type, a parent has the right to have a child live with him/her. The child gets to spend significant amount of time with both the parents, and it works best if the parents live relatively close to each other.
In this type, a parent has the right to make important decisions regarding a child's upbringing. The decisions can be regarding the child's education, health care, daily care, emergency care, extracurricular activities, religion, and other issues affecting the child's health and growth. A legal custody can either be a joint one or sole one.
Any one parent can have either sole physical/legal custody. Sole physical type is usually awarded in those cases when one of the parents is deemed unfit on several grounds. The reasons can include alcohol/drug usage, charges of child abuse, or the presence of a new inept partner.
Research has proven that joint custody rights helps the child develop a better relationship with both the parents despite the animosity between them. However, if there are constant disagreements/fights or usage of verbal/physical abuse regarding the child's welfare decisions, then the court has the right to dissolve the agreement.