Whether you are going through a divorce or you never married your child's other parent, you are not looking forward to a custody battle. Naturally, you hope to gain as much time as possible with your child, and you expect you and your partner will agree on joint physical custody.
Sharing physical custody is not the same as having legal custody. With shared legal custody, you have an equal say in the major decisions in your child's life, such as education, religious upbringing and health care matters. If you and your partner can work together peaceably, sharing legal custody may be good for your child. However, joint physical custody is not always in the child's best interest.
Is sharing always best?
Shared physical custody means you and your partner will divide the time the child spends with you throughout the year. Sometimes, this means dividing the year into large chunks, and for others, it means daily or weekly shifts from one house to the other. There is no "visitation" since the child has a home at both parents' houses for an equal amount of time as much as possible. Child advocates agree that spending as much time with both parents is preferable when there is no abuse or neglect involved.
However, it is important not to overlook the downside of shared custody, including these factors:
- Your child will have to adapt to having two separate homes.
- This may mean different neighborhoods, new people and separation from friends.
- It may be stressful for your child to have to pack and move throughout the week or month.
- You and your partner may be dealing with frequent trips back and forth to collect forgotten items.
- Your children may be overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping track of where they should be or what they need to take with them.
Of course, every family is different, and your child may find these inconveniences worthwhile if it means having equal time with both parents. You and your co-parent will need to have honest discussions about what is best for your family's circumstances.
Make it easy on yourself
Despite the natural desire to maintain control of any situation, you may not want this to create a battle with your partner, especially where the children are concerned. For this reason, many parents find a more positive custody experience when they go through mediation instead of fighting it out in court.
With mediation, you and your parenting partner can work toward a resolution that is best for the child and manageable for you. Not every California attorney is skilled or experienced in mediation, so you will want to ask many questions before you choose an advocate. The right legal counselor will protect your rights as peacefully as possible so you can work toward a healthy future of co-parenting.