Joint child custody is typically the preferred custody arrangement in most courts. A joint custody or shared custody arrangement allows parents to share physical custody of the child. In addition, the court may also order parents to share legal custody of the child or it may grant legal custody to one parent. In general, it is the court's view that a joint custody arrangement serves the best interests of the child.
However, parents must also be prepared to work through the disadvantages of joint child custody, such as:
Interfering With the Child's Stability
A joint child custody arrangement may be difficult for a child who has to shuffle between two households on a regular basis. From a child's perspective, a joint custody arrangement may negatively affect the following relationships in a child's life:
- After-school or weekend social or educational activities
- Religious events
- Time with siblings
Parent's can deal with these issues by:
- Drafting a parenting plan that both parents are required to follow
- Working out a joint custody arrangement that allows a child to have as much stability as possible in both homes
- Being flexible! There are times when a child may want to remain at one home for a special event instead of returning to another parent's home
In a joint custody arrangement, parents often have to bear the cost of managing two households and the accompanying expenses related to raising children.
Double expenses include:
- Additional household expenses associated with having a child in your home, such as the costs of larger home and additional furniture to accommodate a child
Parents can handle these issues by:
- Agreeing to send clothing and toys to each household for the time the children are with the parent
- Saving money wherever possible by cutting coupons or shopping in bulk
- Maintaining a smaller place to live, but sectioning off a place in a common room for a child
Additional Communication Between Parents
Joint child custody is often a "forced" arrangement, meaning that the courts believe that children benefit the most from spending a substantial and continuous amount of time with both parents. However, often parents do not have the best communication with each other after a separation and communication sometimes gets worse with a joint custody arrangement. Poor communication between parents can damage the joint custody arrangement and damage the child psychologically.
Parents should handle a communication issue by:
- Attending counseling/parenting classes
- Speaking to one another only when absolutely necessary
- Working with a neutral party to assist with pick-ups and drop-offs
Parents should work together to make the transition to joint custody as seamless as possible for a child. For more information about joint child custody in your state, visit your state's specific child custody guidelines or speak with a qualified attorney in your state.