Joint Custody Vs. Shared Custody

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Joint custody and shared custody both involve the rights and responsibilities that parents have in raising their children after a separation or divorce. These forms of custody have similar definitions, but they are legally different. Once custody agreements are signed, they are binding legal documents. Therefore, it is important that parents fully understand the differences between joint and shared custody before signing a custody agreement.

Joint Custody

In joint custody arrangements, both parents continue to make decisions regarding the child's religious training, education, medical treatment and upbringing. These decisions are made equally, so the parents must continue to compromise if they disagree, just as they would if they still lived in the same household. Joint custody does not involve the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. It solely addresses the legal responsibility that each parent has in making decisions concerning the welfare of their child.

Joint Custody and Primary Custody

It is common for one parent to have primary custody of the children, which means that one parent is responsible for the daily activities involved in rearing the child. Although the other parent is not present as much, he has the obligation of assisting the primary parent financially. In joint custody arrangements, both parents still have equal decision-making rights, even if one parent spends more time with the children.

Shared Custody

With shared custody, both parents have legal and physical custody of the child. Both parents make decisions about the child's health care, religious upbringing and education, and both parents are responsible for rearing the children. Mediation is often ordered by the courts, giving parents the opportunity to sit with a mediator to work out the details of their parenting plan, which includes information such as where the child will spend summers, holidays and weekends.

Shared Custody Visitation

Shared custody visitation arrangements are decided by either the judge or biological parents. Sometimes, parents come to an agreement on their own. However, if both parents are fighting for custody, the judge decides with whom the children will reside primarily based on what is best for them. The judge can also arrange visitation if the parents cannot reach an agreement.


About the Author

Before starting her writing career, Tanya Brown worked as an eighth-grade language arts teacher. She also has a background in nursing, with extensive experience in urology, neurology and neurosurgery clinics. Brown holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and is pursuing her master’s degree in educational psychology.

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