Split custody or joint custody?
Parents involved in child custody disputes are often confused by the terms split custody and joint custody. Split custody refers to situations in which there are multiple children. In a split custody arrangement, one parent has legal and physical custody of one child, while the other parent has legal and physical custody of the other child.
In a joint custody arrangement, both parents have legal custody of the child and they usually divide physical custody, with one parent being the primary custodial parent and the other parent being the secondary parent or the “non-custodial” parent.
In a split custody situation, one child thinks of dad’s home of his home, while the other child thinks of mom’s home as her home. In a joint custody situation, both children may think of the same home as their home, but they must answer to both parents who jointly share legal responsibility for the children.
Experts generally oppose split custody because it splits up brothers and sisters. Siblings are best left together, permitted to grow up under the same roof. Only in exceptional circumstances does it make sense to separate them. In such split custody arrangements, each parent would then generally have visitation rights with the child who doesn’t live with them.
By contrast, experts generally favor joint custody arrangements because they allow every child to enjoy the benefit of two involved parents. Decision-making is collaborative between the parents, with respect to each of the children, even if the children reside primarily at one address.
Some states, such as Pennsylvania, use another term — “partial custody.” This refers essentially to visitation rights. One parent is generally granted physical custody or residential custody or primary custody. The non-custodial parent would then receive “partial custody” on particular weekends or weekdays.
Distinguishing these terms will help you to navigate the child custody system and to avoid any misunderstandings.