Child custody in California can be a complicated matter that requires families to work with an attorney. However, if you and your spouse can agree on a child custody agreement, your whole divorce will be a lot easier. But what is joint custody, and how does it apply to you?
What is Joint Custody?
The term joint custody can refer to legal or physical rights. When two parents share joint legal custody, it means they both share the right and responsibility to make decisions about a child’s health, welfare and education. When two parents share joint physical custody, it means they both have the right to have the child physically present in their homes for significant periods of time.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody means that the parents share the rights to making decisions about the child. In the majority of cases, parents have joint legal custody. In rare cases, one parent is awarded sole legal custody, such as when:
- It’s in the child’s best interest for one parent to have exclusive rights and responsibilities
- The parents have proven they cannot make decisions together
- One parent is unfit
- One parent is incapable of making decisions
Joint Physical Custody
Joint physical custody means that the child lives with both parents for a significant amount of time. Joint custody doesn’t have to be 50-50, though – just close to it. Otherwise, one parent is the custodial parent and one is the non-custodial parent, and the child simply visits (sometimes overnight) with the other parent.
Joint Custody Examples
In some cases, parents alternate weeks starting on a certain day. If, for example, you and your ex-spouse wanted to start the week on a Monday (which is practical for school and work reasons), your joint custody agreement would look like this:
|Week 1: Monday – Sunday||✓|
|Week 2: Monday – Sunday||✓|
|Week 3: Monday – Sunday||✓|
|Week 4: Monday – Sunday||✓|
Sometimes families prefer alternating weeks with a midweek visit, so kids and parents don’t have to go a full week without seeing each other. If that was the case in your situation, your custody schedule would look like this:
|Week 1: Sunday – Tuesday||✓|
|Week 1: Wednesday||✓|
|Week 1: Thursday – Saturday||✓|
|Week 2: Sunday – Tuesday||✓|
|Week 2: Wednesday||✓|
|Week 2: Thursday – Saturday||✓|
|Week 3: Sunday – Tuesday||✓|
|Week 3: Wednesday||✓|
|Week 3: Thursday – Saturday||✓|
|Week 4: Sunday – Tuesday||✓|
|Week 4: Wednesday||✓|
|Week 4: Thursday – Saturday||✓|
The type of joint custody agreement you and your ex-spouse work out is ultimately up to you, though. Only you know what’s best for your family and what will make everyone happiest and healthiest.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Child Custody?