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What is joint child custody?

Joint child custody is, in some ways, the closest that you can get to a "normal" living situation for your child. Both you and your spouse are going to split the responsibilities after the divorce. This includes taking care of the child, raising him or her, and allowing the child to live with you. Ideally, the split is going to be pretty equal so that you both play a large role in the child's life.

In fact, the court usually makes it a goal to assign joint custody if possible. Studies have shown that this is best for the children, allowing them to have both parental figures in their lives. Naturally, it may not be used in cases of abuse or if there are other reasons one parent should not be involved.

You do have to work together for joint custody. The child will spend part of the time living with you and part of the time living with your ex. When a major decision has to be made – like where the child is going to go to school – you have to discuss it and make the decision together.

Naturally, the splits for living time may not be perfectly even. If your ex lives near the child's school and you don't, for example, it may make sense for the child to live with him or her during the school week and visit you on weekends or breaks. However, the judge will try to make things as fair as they can be in this regard, as long as it's still easy for the child.

During a custody battle, be sure you know your rights and all of the various custody options.

Source: University of Arkansas, "Adventures in Grandparenting: Child Custody and Visitation," LaVona Traywick, accessed June 26, 2015

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