Does Joint Custody Always Mean Equal Time With the Child

We previously discussed the difference between sole legal custody and joint legal custody.  While judges tend to favor an award of joint legal custody, that does not necessarily mean that the court will order that each parent has equal time with the child.  Joint legal custody is intended to be an arrangement wherein each parent has meaningful involvement in decisions affecting the child and parenting responsibilities.  The way the court divides the time with the child is referred to as "time sharing."

Time sharing with the child can be established in any manner that you and your spouse agree is in the best interest of the child.  This could be on an equal 50/50 arrangement, but is not required.  As both an attorney and a mediator, I have seen parents craft widely varying agreements that are designed to work well for their family, but may never work for another family.  Your family may have numerous considerations such as the parents' work schedule, a child's schedule of extracurricular activities, or simple convenience.  If the parties cannot agree, the court will usually fall back on a standard visitation schedule established by the court.  Although each circuit in Kentucky has its own schedule, all of them allow the non-residential parent approximately twenty percent of the time with the child.

Another point to consider is the fact that even with joint custody where the parties are supposed to have equal decision making power, most routine day-to-day decisions for the child will be made by whichever parent the child is with at the time.  In other words, if you are buying the child a toothbrush, you do not have to call the other parent and debate the relative benefits of the Colgate over the Oral-B.  That being said joint custody still requires some level of healthy communication between you and your ex-spouse.  If the two of you cannot reach an agreement, you may be forced to take the issue up with the court and most judges hate having to micro-manage a family.  This also have the added unpleasant side effect of incurring additional legal fees, increased conflict and stress on you and your child.

If you have more questions, please contact the Alford Law Office.

Photo by Romuald Bokej

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