Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, P.C. Attorneys at Law

There are many possible child custody arrangements

Many parents who are splitting up would like to have a joint child custody arrangement, usually for the sake of the children. As opposed to the old way of doing things when judges tended to order primary custody for the mother, there is now a trend toward joint custody, if the court determines that such an arrangement is possible and in the best interests of the children.

There sometimes is confusion about what joint custody means, and that only makes sense, because there are many different arrangements that could be considered joint custody. One distinction that should be made up front is that there is a difference between joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have the legal authority to make decisions about a child's religious upbringing, their education, and their medical treatment.

It is very common for a court to award joint legal custody. Almost all parents have joint legal custody. Far fewer have joint physical custody, but as we have noted that number is growing.

Joint physical custody refers to where the child is going to live, and if there is joint physical custody then the expectation is that the child will spend an equal amount of time living with each parent. Often this means that the child's time in residence with each parent is mapped out on the calendar, and this schedule stays the same. But there are other ways of achieving equal time with each parent.

In a rotating custody arrangement, the child switches residences at regular intervals. This could be a change every month, or it could be a change every year. Other intervals could also be used. Another variation of this arrangement is known as "birdnesting." In this case the child stays in the same home and the parents move in or out at an agreed interval.

Another variation of joint custody is split custody, where each parent has primary physical custody of a different child or children.

Regardless of the arrangement, Pittsburgh child custody lawyers recommend that parents become well-informed on the options available. That way the best interests of the children and the parents can be served.

Source: KC Star "How exactly does joint custody work? Can you change your mind?" 7/14/2011

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