Joint Child Custody

What is joint custody?

Joint custody refers to joint physical custody or joint legal custody. You need to decide about physical and joint custody when you make your parenting plan.

You can write your own joint agreement or you can work with an attorney or legal professional to create it.

You can use Custody X Change software to create your joint custody agreement.

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Joint physical custody

With joint physical custody, your child spends substantial time living with both parents and both parents have equal responsibility to physically care for the child.

Joint legal custody

Legal custody is the authority that parents have to make decisions for and about the child. This includes making decisions about education, medical care, dental care, religious upbringing, etc. as well as the small everyday decisions. Joint custody is when parents share this decision making authority.

Joint custody can mean that you have either joint physical or joint legal custody. Or, it can mean that you have both joint physical and legal custody.

The alternative to joint custody is a sole custody arrangement. With sole physical custody, the child lives with one parent and visits the other parent. With sole legal custody, one parent makes the decisions about the child.

Does joint custody mean that both parents have equal time with the child?

No. Joint physical custody does not mean that both parents have exactly equal time with the child. Rather, it means that both parents have substantial and frequent time with the child. When you create your joint custody schedule, you divide up the time so both parents have significant time with the child.

Some states require that both parents have a minimum amount of time with the child in order for the arrangement to be labeled joint custody. Other states simply require both parents to be heavily involved in raising the child.

Can I have joint legal custody without joint physical custody?

Yes. You can have a custody arrangement where you and the other parent both make decisions for your child but the child lives with one parent and visits the other parent.

You can also have an arrangement where you and the other parent share physical custody but only one parent has full legal custody. This isn't very common though.

How do I make a joint custody agreement / parenting plan?

To make a joint custody parenting plan, you need to first decide if you want joint physical and joint legal custody or just one of them. Then, you make a plan that shows how you and the other parent will share the responsibilities of raising your child.

A joint custody agreement should have:

  • A schedule that shows when your child is with each parent
  • Information about how you and the other parent will share or divide legal custody
  • A plan for how you and the other parent will communicate about the child
  • A method for resolving disputes
  • A plan for making changes to the schedule and plan
  • Information about sharing and dividing expenses
  • Any other information you want to include
What are some common joint custody schedules?

Some common joint custody schedules are:

  • Parents alternating weeks when the child lives with them.
  • A 2/2/5/5 schedule where the child lives with one parent for two days, with the other parent for two days, with the first parent for five days and then with the other parent for five days.
  • A 3/3/4/4 schedule is the same as above except the parents rotate three and four days.
  • The child spending weekends and several evenings with one parent and the rest of the time with the other parent.
  • A schedule where the child lives primarily with one parent during the school year and then lives primarily with the other parent during school breaks.

Some children do better living in one home and visiting the other parent. You can still have a joint custody schedule in this situation--you just have to give the other parent frequent visits. You can also give the visitation parent more holiday and school break time to even out the schedule.

A joint custody schedule doesn't mean that each parent has exactly half of the time with the child. Instead, a joint schedule means each parent has frequent and continuing contact with the child. Along with physical time, you can have contact through phone calls, email, texting, instant messaging, attending the child's events and activities, etc.

When you create a joint custody schedule with Custody X Change, you can:

  • Pick from common schedules and customize them to fit your needs
  • Create your schedule from scratch
  • See the visitation timeshare calculation for each parent
  • Explore options for your schedule until you find the right one
  • Sync your custody schedule with your Blackberry, iPhone, Palm/PDA, Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, Windows Live, etc.
  • Print multiple copies of your schedule so you and the other parent always know what's going on
How do I know if joint custody is right for my child?

Generally, children do better if both parents are significantly involved in their lives. If you and the other parent can make joint custody work, then it will probably be a benefit to your child.

Think about the following to help you know if joint custody will work for you:

  • If you and the other parent have been able to agree on a joint custody arrangement
  • How well you and the other parent can cooperate with each other and make decisions together
  • How close you live to the other parent and if the distance would hamper joint physical custody
  • Whether a joint custody arrangement is logistically possible
  • The family situation of both parents
  • Any history of child abuse, domestic violence, or kidnapping
Do courts prefer joint custody arrangements?

All courts urge parents to put aside their personal differences and work together to raise their children. However, some states have an explicit preference for joint custody arrangements in the law. If you don't want a joint custody agreement in these states, you must show the judge good reasons why joint custody is bad for your child.

Check your state and local laws to find out if your court has a preference for joint custody. If your court does prefer joint custody, you should try to work out a joint arrangement with the other parent. You can even attend mediation to help you work together.

If a joint custody agreement is harmful to your child, you need to present your sole agreement to the court and present your evidence that a joint agreement places your child in danger.

To make a successful custody agreement you need to make an agreement that is in the best interest of your child. The court will always look to see if your agreement benefits your child.

Custody X Change is software that makes it easy to document your situation and stay organized.

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Download now to:

  • Create the best schedule for you and your kids.
  • Discover important clauses for your parenting plan.
  • Save money on legal fees and court costs.
  • End misunderstandings with a visual calendar.
  • Document your actual parenting time.
  • Track expenses and journal what happens.
  • Prepare for negotiation, mediation and court.
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Passed with flying colors

I can't thank you enough for the software. The Parenting Plan passed with flying colors in the courts and with my ex. Now the best part is that I am using the deluxe edition to adjust and record my times. Thanks again.

Gabriella Selmi
Granbury, TX


Gave me a clear picture

Without this software, I would have signed the proposed agreement and found out about the problems and conflicts only after it was too late. Custody X Change took the raw data I had stared at for days, and in a few minutes, gave me a crystal clear picture of the resulting schedule. Custody X Change is a must-have resource for parents and attorneys working with visitation issues.

Doug Conway
Fargo, ND


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