Few issues in a divorce are as contentious as that of custody of the marital children. Parents just want what is best for their children, but they can have very different ideas on what will be the custody or visitation schedule that will be in the children’s best interest. As a result, parents will sometimes fight all the way to trial about how the child’s schedule should look after the divorce. It is important to know when you should draw the line in the sand and really fight for shared parenting arrangement or shared physical custody.
It is important first to understand the basic difference between physical custody and legal custody. Legal custody has to do with decision making authority over the child, such as educational decisions and medical decisions. Physical custody, on the other hand, has to do with where the child resides. Shared physical custody in New Jersey means that the secondary custodial parent (or the Parent of Alternate Residence) has at least 104 overnights per year. Often, when people think of “joint” physical custody, they think of an arrangement in which the parents share time with the child equally, or very close to equally.
The first consideration as to whether you should fight for joint physical custody is the personality of your child or children. Some children do very well with equally shared time, while others really need a solid “home base.” When children do thrive with a joint physical custody arrangement, many children do well with an “every other week” situation instead of bouncing from house to house every couple of days. The goal for any child is stability, and a week long stay will often provide better stability than only staying two or three nights at a time.
The next consideration should be your schedule. Is your work and family schedule such that you are actually able to take care of the children for a week at a time? Some parents work long hours during the week, making having the children during the week impractical, as they may be at daycare for an extended period or on their own while the parent works, depending on the children’s ages. Physical proximity to the other parent and to the children’s school goes hand in hand with this issue. If you live far from the children’s school, it may not be practical to transport them to and from school every day if this will involve a lot of time in the car.
Finally, consider how well you co-parent with the other parent. Sharing children on an equal time basis requires a high level of cooperation and communication. If you are not able to cooperate with the other parent, joint physical custody may not be the best arrangement for your children.Equal parenting time can work well for some families. Contact us today at (732) 529-6937 for an appointment to discuss your children and possible custody arrangements.