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Overview of Joint Physical Custody

What You Need to Know About Joint Physical Custody


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Physical custody is the right and obligation of a parent to provide a home for his or her child and to make the day-to-day decisions required during the time the child is actually with the custodial parent. Joint physical custody implies that each parent will have a significant amount of contact with a child. Joint custody may not necessarily be a 50 percent split of time, but close enough to it. Joint physical custody its often encouraged as an alternative to a dual-family household.

Components of a Joint Physical Custody Arrangement

In joint physical custody, the child may reside with either parent:

  • Every other weekend

  • One to three days during the week

  • Full summer vacations or an entire school year

Factors Considered in Awarding Joint Physical Custody

  • Communication between parents in raising children (i.e. the ability to handle disputes and the ability to cooperate with each other.)

  • The best interests of the child

  • Incidents of domestic violence between the parents

Benefits of Joint Physical Custody

  • The child resides with and has meaningful contact with both parents

  • No need for a visitation schedule

Difficulties of Joint Physical Custody

  • Joint custody may cause confusion or upset the balance of a child's life due to the constant changing of a child's physical environment

  • It might be difficult to work with another adults when a single parent becomes more comfortable on his/her own (i.e. a parent might remarry or might make new friends.)

Relocation in Joint Physical Custody Situations

A parent who would like to relocate must prove that the relocation is in the best interest of the child. A court will be reluctant to upset the balance of a joint physical custody arrangement since a child will have relied on the balance between two homes, close in proximity.

A court may modify an order of joint physical custody. However, a court will use the "best interest of the child" standard to determine which parent should be granted primary physical custody for the future.

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