Getting started, Making it work

Mastering the Basics of Joint Custody

Legal joint custody and physical joint custody are not the same thing. These two areas are critical to maintaining the engine of the co-parenting team.
(2 min 19 sec read)

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Legal joint custody and physical joint custody are not the same thing. To have legal joint custody co-parents share the legal responsibilities of raising their kid(s). These responsibilities are focused on the safety and well-being of the children; including decisions regarding education, religion, and health care.

Physical joint custody has to do with defining co-parent physical custody, meaning, the time the kids spend with each co-parent. This schedule is usually dictated by a number of factors and tends to find a balance between the co-parents’ careers and personal schedule demands and fall in line with the custody plan defined in their divorce agreement (ex. 50/50, 2-5-5-2, 3-4-4-3).

These two areas are critical to maintaining the engine of the co-parenting team. We like to refer to the ‘two homes, one family’ aspect of the co-parenting relationship as a team. This team has one common goal; to put personal differences aside for the sake of raising your children the best way possible. We know this is not always easy.

What does it take to master the legal joint custody arrangement? You need a plan in place. A plan that defines each co-parent’s point of view and position on the various aspects of the child’s health and well being; education, religion, healthcare, homework, extracurricular activities, standards on things like video games, punishment, etc. Consider it a co-parenter ‘Bill of Rights’.

Most couples don’t write this out but many would benefit greatly.

It becomes the bedrock for making decisions moving forward and is brought to life in the day-to-day kid exchanges and scheduled items for you and your family. A document like this would give both co-parents a solid point of reference and potentially reduce issues before they occur.

Mastering physical joint custody means planning a schedule that is appropriate for your child’s needs and supports the custody arrangement in your divorce agreement. This means you may have a 50/50 arrangement but it may become an organic (non-standard) arrangement that supports work, school, activity and family schedules. At the end of the day, it means you need to communicate often, maintain a macro-view, and be forgiving since things will come up and you’ll need to adjust.

All said, there are tools available to help you negotiate these situations. The coParenter app allows you to create a co-parenting time schedule, schedule vacations and when needed, resolve co-parenting issues on the spot and come to agreements with a qualified coParenter Professional. The terms of the agreement can be enabled in the coParenter app so everyone is on the same page. So, whether you changed jobs and need to adjust your parenting time schedule or you simply want to draft an agreement between you and your co-parent, download coParenter and try it yourself for a 30-day free trial.

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