Joint custody and shared custody both involve the rights and responsibilities that divorced parents have in raising their children. These forms of custody have similar definitions, but they are legally different. Once custody agreements are signed, they are binding; therefore, parents must fully understand the differences between the two before signing a custody agreement.
In joint custody arrangements, the mother and the father continue to make decisions regarding the child’s education, medical treatment, religious training, and general upbringing. These decisions are made equally, so the parents compromise if they disagree, just as they would if they lived in an intact household as a married couple. Joint custody does not address the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. Joint custody solely addresses the legal responsibility that each parent concerning the welfare of his or her child.
In this routine it is not uncommon for one parent to have primary custody of the children. This means that one parent is responsible for the daily activities involved in rearing the child. Although the other parent is not present as much, he has the obligation of paying child support. In joint custody arrangements, both parents still have equal decision-making rights, even if one parent spends more time with the children.
By comparison, in shared custody, both parents have legal and physical custody of the child. Both parents make decisions about the child’s health care, religious upbringing and education, and both parents are responsible for rearing the children.
In this regime, courts often order mediation, giving parents the opportunity to sit with a mediator to work out the details of their parenting plan, which includes information such as where the child will spend summers, holidays and weekends.
Shared custody visitation arrangements are decided by either the judge or biological parents. Sometimes, parents come to an agreement together. When both parents dispute custody, the judge decides primary resident based on what is best for them. The judge can also arrange visitation if the parents cannot reach an agreement.