What is Joint Custody?

parents child under cardboard box

When parents decide to end their relationship, they often face significant legal matters concerning their children. Child custody is among the most contentious issues to be resolved in such cases. In Massachusetts, various forms of custody arrangements exist. However, the court’s paramount consideration when determining child custody is the child’s best interest. The court acknowledges that it’s in the child’s best interest to benefit from being nurtured by both parents. Therefore, they often order a joint or shared custody agreement. Please continue reading to learn what joint custody entails and how our trusted Bristol County Child Custody Lawyers can help safeguard your parenting time.

How Does Joint Custody Work?

In New Jersey, there are two different kinds of custody. The first is legal custody, which is the right of a parent to make crucial decisions concerning their child’s health, education, and overall welfare. The second is physical custody, which is where the child primarily lives. The court recognizes that having a frequent and ongoing relationship with both parents is in a child’s best interest. Therefore, it’s common for parents or the court to reach a joint or shared custody agreement to preserve the best interests of a child.

With this arrangement, parents share decision-making responsibilities, and each parent has a substantial amount of parenting time with the children. Sometimes, parents cannot spend equal time with their children, but when they have a shared legal custody agreement, they have an equal right to make significant decisions about their children’s upbringing. For instance, one parent might be able to sign their child up for ice skating lessons without consent from the other, but they may not be able to send their child to a religious program without both parents signing off on it. Parents who share joint physical custody must devise a plan for alternate time spent with the child. A typical structure parents choose is having the child spend one week with one parent and the next with the other. Another common structure parents use is a 3-4-4-4 schedule where children spend three days with one parent and four with the other during the first week, then switch and do the reverse the following week.

When is this custody arrangement the best option?

Joint custody is generally the best approach when parents are willing to work together to safeguard their child’s best interests. Co-parenting requires ongoing, continuous communication. This means parents must be able to communicate regularly with each other. The court will determine whether the parents can cooperate to meet the child’s needs. As mentioned above, the court believes a child benefits the most from having both parents remain active participants in their life unless, of course, there are issues such as domestic violence, abuse, or neglect.

If you’re considering a joint custody agreement, please don’t hesitate to contact a determined Bristol County child custody lawyer from The Law Offices of Cynthia L. Hanley, P.C., who can help you navigate your options and fight to protect your child’s best interests.