What is Joint Physical Custody?
Joint physical custody is sometimes confused with joint legal custody. However, there is a key difference between them. While joint legal custody governs who gets to make the important decisions in a child’s life, physical custody governs which parent the child lives with. Under joint physical custody, both parents have an equal right to have the child live with them. Parents with joint physical custody usually have joint legal custody as well. Physical custody is not to be confused with visitation or ‘parenting time,’ as visitation can only be granted to a parent who does not have physical custody. This type of equal “co-parenting” arrangement is difficult to achieve in most cases.
The Benefits of Joint Physical Custody
Joint physical custody works best when the two parents live relatively close to each other, so the child can attend school normally and be transported between the two homes easily. Under joint physical custody, the child has legal residence at both homes. A child can split their time between living with each parent based on a predetermined schedule, for example each parent taking the child every other week or month. This can have many benefits, such as the child not having to ‘take sides’ and having an easier adjustment period following the sometimes traumatic experience of a divorce. Additionally, there is less of a burden on each parent when they get to share time with the child equally.
Is this the best Child Custody Option for my Family?
As with joint legal custody, the key factor in making joint physical custody work is the parents being able to work together for the child’s best interest. If the parents are constantly at odds or fight over the child’s loyalty or affection, the situation will crumble and the child will suffer as a result. Like all of the child custody options, it depends on each individual situation and what is best for everyone involved, most importantly the child.