Does Joint Custody Really Work?

For kids, joint custody sounds like the perfect solution for the imperfect situation of divorce. Children in a divorce usually want their family to stay together and are saddened when the reality sets in that they see one parent more than the other. Having joint custody is a way to keep both parents involved in child-rearing issues and reduces the impact of divorce for kids.

When Joint Custody Works

For parents, it is hard unless both parents are very committed to making it work. Some couples who get divorced are so angry with each other that they are not willing or at least emotionally able to pull it off. Those who can maintain a cordial relationship have a much better chance of making the transition from a family that lives in one home to one that lives in two.

As with other types of custody, joint custody must be approved by the court, which will look more favorably on this arrangement if both parents agree to it. The court also assesses whether both parents have a developing relationship with the child and adequate parenting skills to further their interests. It not only implies that the child will spend a more equal amount of time with the parents, but implies flexibility. Whereas shared or split custody has a more fixed schedule, joint custody is more easily adaptable to life circumstances for both parents and children.

Three Considerations when Pursuing Joint Custody

First, because custody arrangements are a big commitment of time, both parties must be realistic when deciding if it will work. If one parent has a job that keeps them on the road all week and makes demands on their night and weekend time, then caring for the kids half the time would be difficult. The pat answer is to suggest that parents cut back their work schedules to prioritize the kids, but in all situations this is not possible.

Second, divorce usually involves child support, which is often based on your physically having the children less than 20 percent of the time. The more the care of the children is split equally, the more there should be a more equitable division of the expenses. Children should not be used as a pawn to cut down on paying child support or on the amount that you receive, but could change child support requirements.

Third, agreeing to joint custody involves sharing more details of your personal life with your spouse. For example, if you are planning on going on vacation or even want the night out that does not involve the kids, you must provide contact information to your former spouse in case of emergency. If your plans conflict with when the kids are visiting, you should discuss in advance whether the other parent will automatically take the kids or whether using a babysitter is the best idea. If you are not comfortable with your former spouse keeping up with your personal life, joint custody might not work out for you.

Assessing Whether Joint Custody Will Work for You

Obtaining joint custody is usually easier (and more cost-effective) at the beginning when custody and child support issues are being discussed. If you think it would work for you, contact a family law attorney for a consultation and assistance in filing for custody.