Joint custody is exactly what it sounds like – both parents having custody of any children they have. This means both parents share time with the children, with the children living in both homes over an agreed on period of time.
When both parents share custody each parent has equal responsibility for the children. This includes any medical care, schooling and any decisions to be made in the benefit of the children. Usually the parents must be in agreement before any changes are to be made to the living arrangements and any other important decisions. If the parents can’t come to a decision, the matter may be taken back to court to resolve.
The children may not live 50% of the time with either parent; it may be the children stay in one home and still visit the other. Other times the children do live equally in both homes, spending part of the week or every other week at the other parent’s home.
In the cases of full joint custody, both parents must agree on everything and if they don’t, a mediator is brought in to settle matters between them. If an agreement is not made on their own, the courts will make the choice for you. Although in some cases, the courts will go with the ‘primary’ parent, or the parent that the children live with more often.
Joint custody is actually rare in a divorce – many parents believing the children should have a stable and single home. This does not mean the other parent who has visitation doesn’t have any say in the child’s upbringing, but they are not the primary caregiver and will usually have to bend to the one who is.
Others feel having both parents take a more active role in raising the children can make the children feel more secure and well rounded, as they don’t lose out on having either parent in their lives for any length of time.
Even if the child does not live in one parent’s home, both parents are around and have a say in how the child is raised. Some parents believe that sole custody is the better route so the child does not get confused by separate rules in the respective parent’s homes.