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Joint custody arrangements: Are they right for you?

Psychological research has shown time and again that the more time children can spend with both mothers and fathers the better it is for their development. This has prompted Maryland family law courts to support parents seeking joint custody arrangements in which children split their time equally between living at their mother's and father's respective homes.

However, are 50/50 child custody arrangements good in all circumstances? Perhaps you feel the other parent is unfit to be an independent caretaker; or, maybe the other parent constantly wants to fight with you whenever you see one another. This could make joint custody arrangements more difficult. Let's take a closer look at these arrangements to fully understand the issues involved.

The 2 types of child custody available to parents

Child custody is defined in two different ways. First, there is physical custody, which refers to which parent the child lives with. Second, there is legal custody, which refers to which parent makes important decisions about the child's upbringing, religion, medical care, education and other matters.

In some cases, one parent will have full legal and physical custody and the other parent will have visitation rights. In these cases, the child will live full time with the mother or father who has custody, while the other parent will be given a set number of days each week or month to spend with the child. The children may even spend the night when visiting with the other parent, but their home will be with the parent who has physical custody.

What's becoming more common these days is for parents to share both forms of custody with one another. In these arrangements, the children will live with one parent half the time and with the other parent the other half of the time.

Joint custody isn't always the best

The biggest advantage of joint custody is that children get to spend equal time with both of their parents, and each parent gets to spend a fair and equal amount of time with their children. Parents also benefit from sharing the burden of raising their children, as they will each get to have free time spent on their own without needing to watch after their kids.

There are, however, some downsides. The constant exchanges of the children between the parents must be organized and followed through with. Organizing these exchanges becomes more difficult when parents live far away from each other and when parents have busy schedules.

The parents also need to get along so that they can continually see each other and come to mutual agreements with one another. If the parents can't comport themselves in a civil way when picking up and dropping off their kids, it can ruin the arrangements and make them unworkable.

Finally, both parents need to be emotionally and psychologically capable of being good and independent caretakers of their children for these arrangements to work.

The decision is up to you and the other parent

When parents can communicate with one another to determine what are the best child custody arrangements for their needs, they can achieve the best results for themselves and their families. Parents who familiarize themselves with their legal rights and options pertaining to child custody and common child custody arrangements will have the best chance of success in this regard.

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