What Is Joint Custody of a Child? What It Is and How to Get It

Joint custody is a family law term that refers to a child custody arrangement in which both parents share the decision-making responsibilities and physical care of the child.

Joint custody arrangements are often made during divorce proceedings, at which time they are defined by a court order.

how a father can lose a custody battle
how a father can lose a custody battle |Stewart Law Group

There are actually two different kinds of joint custody and parents will need to consider whether either or both work for them.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody is also called shared custody. When parents have joint physical custody, the child spends time with both of them. Usually, the child splits time equally, or close to equally. Each parent spends time with the child on a regular basis.

Joint physical custody usually works best when both parents live within the same city or region.

There are also some benefits for the child’s well-being in this arrangement, such as maintaining a close relationship with both parents and having a sense of stability and continuity.

Joint Legal Custody

Legal custody doesn’t dictate how a child’s time is spent. Instead, it refers to which parent has the legal right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. This could include choices such as:

  • Where a child goes to school
  • What childcare a child receives
  • What extracurriculars the child participates in
  • Whether the child receives religious training
  • What medical care the child gets

Parents may share legal custody. If they have joint legal custody, they make decisions about the child together.

If only one parent has legal custody, on the other hand, that parent has sole authority to make important decisions on a child’s behalf.

How to Get Joint Custody

Joint custody is not automatically granted by the court. Parents who want joint custody must demonstrate that they are willing and able to cooperate and communicate with each other for the best interest of the child.

They must also show that they can provide a safe and stable environment for the child in both households.

Some factors that the court may consider when deciding on joint custody include:

  • The moral standard, conduct, and actions of the parents
  • How the parents have acted on the child’s best interests in the past
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child more frequent contact with the other parent
  • The quality of the relationship between a parent and child
  • The preference of the child, if the child is old enough to express it
  • The physical and mental health of the parents and the child
  • The availability and suitability of the parents’ homes
  • The distance and travel time between the parents’ homes
  • The impact of joint custody on the child’s education, social life, and emotional development

Alternatives to Joint Custody

Joint custody is not the only option for parents who are separating or divorcing.

There are other types of custody arrangements that may suit different situations better.

Some of these alternatives include:

  • Sole custody: One parent has both physical and legal custody of the child, while the other parent may have visitation rights or supervised access.
  • Split custody: Each parent has physical custody of one or more children, while the parents share legal custody of all the children.
  • Bird’s nest custody: The child stays in one home, while the parents rotate in and out according to a schedule.
  • Parallel parenting: The parents have joint physical custody, but minimal contact and communication with each other. They make decisions independently and do not consult each other on parenting issues.

Is joint custody 50/50?

Joint custody is a term that can refer to both physical and legal custody of a child. Physical custody is about where the child lives and who takes care of them. Legal custody is about who has the right to make important decisions for the child.

Joint custody means that both parents share these responsibilities and rights.

However, joint custody does not necessarily mean 50/50 custody. 50/50 custody is a specific type of joint physical custody, where the child spends equal or nearly equal time with each parent.

There are other types of joint physical custody, where the child spends more time with one parent than the other, but still has substantial and frequent contact with both parents.

Similarly, joint legal custody does not always mean that parents have to agree on every decision.

Sometimes, parents may have joint legal custody, but one parent has the final say on certain matters, such as education or health care.

Other times, parents may have sole legal custody, but still consult the other parent on some issues.

Therefore, joint custody and 50/50 custody are not the same thing. Joint custody is a broader term that covers both physical and legal aspects of parenting, while 50/50 custody is a specific way of dividing physical time between parents.

Joint custody can include 50/50 custody, but it can also include other arrangements that are not exactly equal.

It is a type of child custody arrangement where both parents share the decision-making and physical care of the child. Joint custody has some advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation and the needs of the child and the parents. Here are some of the main pros and cons of joint custody:

Advantages of Joint Custody

1.Joint custody allows the child to maintain a close and meaningful relationship with both parents, which can benefit the child’s emotional and social development.
2.Joint custody can provide the child with a sense of stability and continuity, as the child does not have to adjust to living with only one parent or losing contact with the other parent.
3.Joint custody can reduce the conflict and resentment between the parents, as they share the responsibility and the workload of raising the child equally.
4.Joint custody can also reduce the financial burden on each parent, as they split the costs of childcare, education, health care, and other expenses.

Disadvantages of Joint Custody

1.Joint custody can be stressful and disruptive for the child, as the child has to constantly move from one parent’s house to the other, which can affect the child’s sense of belonging and security.

2.Joint custody can also be challenging and inconvenient for the parents, as they have to coordinate and communicate with each other frequently, and compromise on various issues regarding the child’s welfare.

3.Joint custody may not work well if the parents live far apart, have different parenting styles, have a history of abuse or violence, or have a high level of conflict or hostility.

4.Joint custody may not suit the child’s preferences, personality, or needs, especially if the child is very young, has special needs, or has a strong attachment to one parent over the other.


Joint custody is a common and beneficial way of sharing the responsibility and care of a child after a separation or divorce.

However, it is not the only option and it may not work for every family.

Parents should consider the advantages and disadvantages of joint custody, as well as the alternatives, before deciding on the best arrangement for their child.

They should also seek legal advice and guidance from a family law attorney who can help them navigate the complex and often emotional process of child custody.

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