What is JOINT CUSTODY and how is it different from SOLE CUSTODY?
Joint legal custody gives the non-residential parent the right to participate in major decisions about the children's upbringing. In the traditional sole custody arrangement, the non-custodial parent has a right to a limited amount of contact with the child, and the requirement to pay child support. There are disadvantages to the non-custodial parent for example, that parent cannot access his or her own child's medical records without the custodial parent's permission. Joint legal custody does not affect the child's living arrangements. Often it is granted with the standard residence arrangement, in which the child lives with one parent but is permitted to visit the other parent certain days per month.
Many states including New York and New Jersey presume that joint legal custody is in the child's best interest. In those states, the court must award joint legal or make a specific finding that joint legal custody would be detrimental to the child. A denial of joint legal custody might be based on a finding that the parties have such extreme communication problems that they can not work together for the benefit of their children.
How does physical custody work?
In an uncontested situation, the court will usually approve shared physical custody arrangements which divide the child's time with the parents roughly equally. With joint physical custody (also called shared parenting), the child lives with both parents, often on an alternating week basis. Joint physical custody is usually defined as a schedule where the child has at least a 30/70 time share between parents, although 50/50 arrangements are common. Joint physical custody is almost always accompanied by joint legal custody. Generally a court will not award joint physical custody in a contested situation.
How does Joint Custody affect children?
The available research has found joint physical custody to be better for children than sole custody by a wide margin while the rest indicates no difference between the two. The critical factor appears to be the relationship between the parents; whether they have conflicts and the magnitude of these conflicts. When there is a high degree of conflict between parents, joint custody and sole custody produce similar outcomes for children. In cases were there is relatively little conflict between parents, joint custody results in better outcomes for children, i.e., they have fewer emotional problems, do better in school and less delinquency than children in sole custody.
Does JOINT Custody increase the conflict between parents?
No. Studies have shown that conflict is either reduced or is the same with joint custody. It is generally understood that custody fights are conflicts over who will raise the child, so the reduction in conflict with joint custody may result from the continued participation of both parents in raising the child. This is why in both New York and New Jesey Joint Custody us favored when teh parents get along.
How does join custody affect child support?
In New York or New Jersey, there is no affect on the finances of child support calculations when there is Joint legal custody as opposed to when one parent has sole physical custody. With joint physical custody there is still a payment of child support from the higher income parent to the lower income parent. Usually determined by a sliding scale chart based on time with each parent. State guidelines are normally constructed so that the financial support going to the child is the same for joint physical custody as for sole physical custody. Because both parents provide for the child directly with joint physical custody, the payment between parents may be less, but the material needs of the child are provided for as well or better with joint custody as compared with sole custody.