When Joint Physical Custody Works
Custody refers to the physical and legal custody of your child.
Physical custody is where your child resides physically, or where your child lives, and the everyday care of your child.
Joint physical custody, also called shared physical custody, means that your child spends substantial time living with both parents and both parents have equal responsibility to physically care for your child.
Joint physical custody does not mean that parents have equal time with the child. Rather, it means that both parents have substantial and frequent time with the child.
If you have joint physical custody, you need to make a parenting time schedule that shows when your child spends time with each parent.
Some common shared parenting time schedules are:
Alternating weeks schedule when the child lives with one parent for one week and the other parent the next week
Two weeks each schedule when the child lives with one parent for two weeks and the other parent the next two weeks
2-2-3 schedule where the child lives with one parent for two days, the other parent for two days and the parents alternate a three day weekend
2-2-5-5 schedule where the child lives with one parent for two days, the other parent for two days, then the first parent for five days and the second parent for five days
3-4-4-3 schedule where the child lives with one parent for three days, the other parent for four days, then the first parent for four days and the second parent for three days
Every weekend schedule where the child lives with one parent during the week and the other parent for an extended weekend
4-3 schedule where the child lives with one parent for four days and the other parent for three days
You can always add midweek or overnight visits during the week to make the schedule better suited for your situation.
You may want to use a visitation timeshare calculator when you make your schedule to ensure that both parents have substantial time with the children.
Many states have laws that give preference for joint physical custody. Courts in these states will order joint physical custody as the default unless a parent can prove that it would be harmful to the child.
Look at your state custody guidelines to find out what your court prefers. Some states require that both parents have a minimum amount of time with the child in order for the arrangement to be labeled joint physical custody. Other states simply require both parents to have substantial and frequent contact with the child.