Can a Joint Custody Parenting Plan Work for You?

Divorce and custody are two words that most people don’t plan on ever having to deal with during their lifetimes, but not all relationships work out. If you have children and are going through a divorce or legal separation, deciding who your kids will live with can be a tough decision. Find out your options and figure out what will work best for you and your family.

What is Joint Custody?

There are two different types of custody when kids are involved in a legal separation or divorce: legal custody and physical custody. Make sure you know the difference between the two before signing paperwork that assigns custody.

Joint legal custody is usually awarded by the courts unless there is a serious issue such as physical abuse or other criminal activity. Joint legal custody simply means that both you and your ex have access to your children’s legal records including school records and medical records. If you have joint legal custody you can call your child’s doctor or school and request any information your ex can, unless your custody paperwork specifically denies you that right.

Physical custody indicates which of you the children physically resides with. This is usually what people mean when they are talking about joint custody. Primary physical custody is often awarded to one parent while the other parent receives a visitation schedule. Joint physical custody, other the other hand, means that your children split their time equally between you and your ex.

Before pursuing joint physical custody, ask yourself some serious questions to decide if it can work out well in your situation.

What Are Your Living Arrangements?

Kids need space. They need to have their own sleeping area and space to keep their clothes and other personal things. It doesn’t matter whether you are keeping the house or not, but a one-bedroom apartment is not enough room to have your kids living with you three or four days a week. If you want to pursue joint physical custody, make sure your child has a room of his own so the judge can tell you are serious about having him there and giving him room to be himself.

Do You and Your Ex Live Near Each Other?

If you and your ex live two hours apart, a joint physical custody plan simply won’t work. If you live in the same town and plan to continue doing so, joint custody might fit well in your situation. Just remember that you will need to reevaluate the custody plan if one of you moves to another city.

Can You Take Your Child to School and Activities?

If you ask for joint physical custody of your children, be prepared to take your children to school on the mornings when they are with you and pick them up from school when they are finished. Chances are the school bus won’t pick up your kids from two different houses on a rotating basis, so you and your ex will need to decide which schools the kids will go to, and how they will get there. Even if you live in the same town, you might both live in different school zones.

Can You Get Along with Your Ex?

Getting divorced can leave horrible tension and anger between two people. Be realistic when deciding if you can get along with your ex. Both of you need to be willing to work together if you have joint physical custody of your children. Schedules for work, school and other activities will change over the years. If you or your ex aren’t willing to work together on an ongoing basis to coordinate these changes, your children will be the ones who suffer the most by missing events that are important to them.