Uncontested divorce brings up many uncertainties and questions, especially with regard to how to deal with your children. As you are working out your marital settlement agreement with your spouse one of the questions which may surface is how to handle child custody. In this entry we present some of the differences between joint and sole custody in order for you to better understand how you would like to create your own marital settlement agreement.
Joint Legal Custody
Joint legal custody is commonly referred to as shared custody. This type of custody is when both parents share the legal responsibility of making major decisions for their child(ren). Joint legal custody does not determine the physical custody of a child. Parents can share joint custody without sharing joint physical custody.
Joint legal custody means that both parents are responsible for day to day decisions. Some of these decisions can include issues like child discipline, education decisions, and medical treatment. In regard to finances, parents often pick between paying for costs as they arise or pay a set amount as child support. Sometimes a combination works best. For example, one parent may pay a set dollar amount per month, and then split the cost of incidental child care costs, such as sports equipment, summer camp, vacations, and other such expenses, with the other parent.
Joint Physical Custody
Joint physical custody is different from joint legal custody. When parents share joint physical custody (also known as shared parenting or shared custody) the child spends time with both parents. This could mean the child splits his/her time during the week or the year with both parents. In this type of marital settlement agreement, the child often spends his/her time equally between the two parents, alternating weekdays, weekends, and holidays between parents.
Sole legal custody is when one parent is responsible for making all the decisions for a child. The range for decision making ranges from minor choices (after-school activities) to how the child is disciplined. Normally sole custody is used when one parent is abusive, has an addiction problem or may be harmful to the child. Most marital settlement agreements try to incorporate both parents into the lives of the child.
Some of the other items you may want to take into account when figuring out child custody are:
- Each parent's resources;
- Parenting skills of each parent; and
- What is in the best interest of the child.
Ending a marriage does not mean ending a parental relationship. There are several options to make a parental relationship work even though the marriage didn't work. Negotiating a marital settlement agreement with your spouse will help prevent future misunderstandings and conflict on how to handle your child's upbringing.