Shared custody is a specific type of child custody arrangement. In a shared custody arrangement, the court will generally try to provide both parents with relatively equal rights and split visitation regarding the custody of their child or children. 

Shared custody arrangements are much different than other types of child custody set-ups, such as sole or joint custody, which normally do not distribute the parents custodial rights evenly. In contrast, the primary goal of shared custody arrangements is to provide the child with equal opportunities to spend time with each of their parents. 

Thus, shared custody is not always an available option for every child custody situation. For example, shared custody may not be recommended if:

  • The parties experience difficulties when attempting to cooperate with one another; 
  • There is a history of domestic abuse, child abuse, or child neglect;
  • There is a major discrepancy between the child-rearing capabilities of each parent; or
  • The child custody arrangement would not be one that fits the child’s best interest standard (e.g., if one of the parents is never around due to work). 

Shared custody arrangements are considered the more modern approach to child custody. In the past, it was traditionally the mother who was granted physical custody of the child in the event of a divorce, whereas the father was only financially responsible for supporting the child. 

Shared custody arrangements aim to give the child a well-balanced lifestyle. If both parties can demonstrate their willingness to cooperate with one another and they are both physically and mentally fit to care for the child, the court will be more willing to uphold an arrangement for shared custody. 

As is the case for any type of child custody arrangement, the final decision will depend on whether or not it would be in the best interest of the child

How are Shared Custody Schedules Determined?

As previously mentioned, shared custody is mainly focused on the amount of time the child is permitted to spend with each parent, which is usually spread out as evenly as possible. In other words, shared custody schedules are usually formulated based on a 50/50 split distribution of time between the parents. As such, both parents must maintain a legal home for the child. 

Shared custody schedules may be analyzed according to several different factors. These factors might include the following:

  • The child’s school schedule and any activities that the child may be involved in;
  • Any special needs or recurring appointments that the child has;
  • The availability of each parent to care for the child (e.g., if a parent works long hours or travels for work, and is never home); and
  • If any were provided, the recommendations given by a professional counselor or family psychologist.

In addition, a child custody schedule may be adjusted over time. This may be necessary when there has been a change in circumstances. 

For example, if a parent receives a job in another state or becomes incapacitated, then this may be considered a major change in circumstances that would encourage the court to adjust the child custody arrangement, in order to ensure that the child is being cared for properly. 

Shared custody schedules may also be terminated. This may happen when a parent can no longer provide adequate support for the child, such as if they have committed a violent crime and are sentenced to a term of imprisonment, or if they have passed away. 

In such instances, full custody will usually be granted to the fit or surviving parent. Therefore, the court will have sufficient grounds to terminate the original shared custody schedule. 

Is Shared Custody the Same as Joint Custody?

Shared custody has many similarities in common with joint custody, however, shared custody usually refers to arrangements that distribute custody rights and visitation times equally between both parents.

In contrast, joint custody may involve arrangements where one parent holds the majority of custody rights, and the other parent may only receive limited visitation or custody rights. 

The way in which these terms are defined and applied will generally depend on the jurisdiction involved because the laws often vary from state to state. 

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Creating a Shared Custody Schedule?

Creating a shared child custody schedule can be a daunting task. Many factors have to be taken into consideration and the court may not always approve of the schedule agreed upon.

Therefore, it may be in you and your child’s best interest to hire a local child custody lawyer if you need assistance with child custody arrangements, forming a schedule, or other related issues.

An experienced child custody lawyer can provide you with legal representation during the process and can also give you guidance regarding the best course of legal action for your situation.

A lawyer can also determine what parental rights you have and how to properly protect them in accordance with the laws in your area.