If you are a parent going through divorce, you most likely are concerned about what your custody arrangement will look like. More and more, divorced parents are sharing joint custody of their children. But what does that mean? Do you automatically split custody time 50-50 with joint custody?

Joint custody basics

In North Carolina, you don’t automatically split physical custody of your child 50-50 as part of a joint custody arrangement. That’s just one option. However, with joint custody you are sharing physical custody time more than just one parent getting some weekend time with their children. You could have physical custody of your child during the weekdays during the school year, but your ex could have it on some weekends, school breaks and more during the summer.

Also, having joint custody means you are sharing physical custody and legal custody of your children. Physical custody is when you are directly caring for your child in your home. Legal custody involves the ability to have a say in how medical decisions are made for your child, what school your child will go to and even what religion you’ll raise your child in. Sometimes, a parent may have sole physical custody of their child, but the other parent still has visitation rights and shares legal custody.

When joint physical custody works

Having a joint physical custody agreement with your former spouse works best in these situations:

  • Both parents agree that having joint custody will work best for their child.
  • Parents can make decisions together without high conflict.
  • Parents live close enough to each other to make exchanges possible.
  • Both parents want to be very involved in raising their children.
  • The family has no history of abuse, domestic violence and you aren’t concerned about your former spouse kidnapping your child.

Part of the reason joint custody has become more common is that research shows children thrive when both of their parents are actively involved in their upbringing. They have fewer behavioral problems, higher self-esteem, better school performance and stronger relationships. If you and your spouse both want what’s best for your children, sharing joint physical custody may be your best option.

Most of the time, child custody agreements are reached outside of court, giving parents more say in the final schedule. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help you find a joint custody agreement that will work well for you, your former spouse and your child.