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The Difference Between Joint and Physical Custody

If you are a parent and you are going through a divorce then one of the things that is going to be discussed immediately is the custody of the children. There are two main types of custody when it comes to the kids, joint and physical. If you are going through any type of custody battle or situation then it is important to understand the difference between these two.

Joint Custody

When someone is awarded joint custody, the custody of the child is shared 50/50. This means that the child is going to spend 50% of their time with you and 50% of their time with their other parent. In some cases the percentages can not be exact but they should be close. In today’s divorce courts joint custody, which can also be called shared or equal custody, is becoming the most common ruling. The reason behind this is that studies have shown that children benefit greatly when co-parenting is involved and both parents take an active role in their life.

In addition it seems that more fathers are asking to have equal parenting as they are going through a divorce. In most situations this is the best choice for the child. However, it does require the two parents to live in close proximity to one another. It also requires that the parents be able to get along and that they can make decisions together when it comes to the interest of the child.

Of course if the parents can not get along or if the parents do not live close to one another this is not going to work out for them or the child involved. So if that is the case another type of custody should be considered.

Physical Custody

When one parent of a child is awarded physical custody of that child, then the child is going to live with them. There will be a set visitation schedule for the other parent to get to see the child on a regular and consistent basis. The divorce papers will either call this physical custody or sole physical custody. This type of custody awards the parent with certain rights and responsibilities that are shared between the parents with joint custody.

In most cases the child spends the majority of their time with one parent. The child usually has a week night visit and a visit every other weekend with the parent who does not have custody of the child. The holidays and special events in the child’s life are also shared between the two parents or set schedule is made. Depending on the courts in the area where you live, these visitation schedules can be quite liberal. If you are the parent who has not been awarded physical custody, it is your right to ask that you have liberal visitation times with your child.

The biggest mistake that is made is that the non-custodial parent does not get the court to define a set visitation schedule, liberal or otherwise. For instance with the standard schedule mentioned above, make sure that there is one week night stated in the paperwork if the parents can not agree. This way you are getting your child that one set night regardless. If you leave it open ended you could end up fighting all of the time about what night is best for both you and the child. The custodial parent could have the child in activities that would interfere with your choice of nights and could leave you unable to follow through with the visitation because of work and other things.

Additionally it is very important that pick up and drop off times be stated clearly for all dates of visitation. This should be included for holidays, week night visits, weekends, and vacation periods. If you are awarded the most common type of visitation schedule you can expect that you will have your child one week night, every other weekend, every other holiday (rotating each year so that you have the child on the opposite holidays during the other years), and for two weeks of vacation during the summer. This is pretty much the standard set minimum for visitation.

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