Joint Custody vs Shared Custody in California: What You Need to Know

photo of a child. Joint Custody vs Shared Custody in California

Divorce is challenging for any couple, but when you add children to the situation, things can get even more complicated. Sometimes, parents may need clarification on joint and shared custody terms. Understanding the difference between joint and shared custody in California is essential to coming to a fair agreement.

Many people assume these are two different names but mean the same thing, and in several states, that is true. However, these terms in California refer to two different ways to address child custody. This article will explain joint custody vs. shared custody in California and discuss the differences.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

Before we explore joint and shared custody, we must understand that two matters are involved when discussing child custody: physical and legal.

  • Physical custody addresses who and where the child lives with.
  • Legal custody addresses the parent’s right to make significant decisions for the child.

What is Joint Custody?

Joint Legal Custody

Joint legal custody is an arrangement that requires both parents to agree on important decisions for their child. When parents have joint custody, they are responsible for making significant decisions about their child’s welfare, including education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Parents must collaborate and communicate effectively to agree on major decisions affecting their children.

Joint Physical Custody

Joint physical custody aims to ensure the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents to ensure they maintain a close and continuous relationship with both parents. However, this doesn’t mean that equal time is spent with each parent. Instead, the child’s time is divided in a way that supports their best interests, which may not always result in an equal split.

What is Shared Custody?

Shared custody is often used interchangeably with joint custody, particularly joint physical custody, but it emphasizes equal time and responsibilities between parents. This arrangement requires careful planning to maintain the child’s routine and stability.

It also requires a high level of cooperation and flexibility from both parents. The court typically aims for a schedule that minimizes disruption to the child’s schooling, social life, and overall well-being.

Key Differences Between Joint and Shared Custody in California

While joint and shared custody can overlap, especially concerning physical custody, their differences lie in the specifics of time division and decision-making responsibilities. Let’s examine some of the differences.

Decision-Making (Legal Custody)

  • Joint Legal Custody — Both parents share the decision-making responsibilities. This doesn’t impact the child’s living arrangement but requires joint participation when making significant life decisions.
  • Shared Custody — Although shared custody implies joint physical custody, it can also encompass shared legal custody, in which both parents have an equal say in decisions.

Living Arrangements (Physical Custody)

  • Joint Physical Custody — The child lives with both parents, but not necessarily equally. Depending on the child’s best interest, one parent may have the child during the week and the other during weekends or holidays.
  • Shared Physical Custody—The child spends approximately equal time with each parent. This requires detailed scheduling and cooperation to balance the child’s needs with the parents’ capacities.

Flexibility and Practicality

  • Joint custody offers more flexibility. It allows arrangements that fit the child’s and parents’ specific circumstances. It’s less rigid about equal time division but emphasizes the involvement of both parents in the child’s life.
  • Shared custody strives for a balanced time split, which can be challenging for parents who have demanding jobs or live far apart. It requires a commitment to maintaining a structured schedule that benefits the child.

Factors the Court Considers When Determining Custody Arrangements

The court’s primary concern is the child’s best interests. Here are some factors the court considers when determining custody arrangements in California.

  • Child’s Health, Safety, and Welfare — The court evaluates which arrangement best supports the child’s well-being.
  • Parental Cooperation — Parents who demonstrate effective communication and cooperation are more likely to receive joint or shared custody.
  • Child’s Preference — Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the court may consider the child’s preference.
  • Parental Involvement — The court assesses each parent’s involvement in the child’s life, including their ability to provide a stable environment.
  • History of Abuse or Neglect — Any history of abuse or neglect by a parent can significantly impact custody decisions.

Turn to Azemika & Azemika for Your Child Custody Case

Navigating custody arrangements in California requires a clear understanding of joint and shared custody differences. While both aim to keep both parents involved in the child’s life, they differ in terms of decision-making responsibilities and physical time division. By prioritizing the child’s best interests and fostering cooperative parenting, parents can create a nurturing and supportive environment, regardless of the custody arrangements.

When children are involved in a divorce, they become the priority. At Azemika & Azemika, we understand how important it is to protect the best interests of your children while protecting your rights as a parent during a divorce.

Our team of attorneys will help you understand the laws and procedures for navigating child custody issues in California. We actively engage in settlement in negotiations or litigating your child custody case.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.