The Difficulties of Shared Custody, Part I

There’s no question that having shared physical custody of your minor children can create some difficulties. The reality, though, is that we’re seeing shared physical custody far more often than we used to. It seems like many dads are, for better or for worse, much more interested in actively being involved in the parenting of their children than they used to be. And on top of that, courts are more sympathetic to the pleas of dads and more inclined to believe them capable of taking on an equal share of the childrearing responsibilities.

What does shared custody mean? I don’t like the sound of it.

Shared custody is any kind of custodial relationship where the non-custodial parent (the parent who has less time) has at least 90 full days with the child(ren) in a given year. The split of mom time versus dad time can be achieved in any number of ways. If dad (as the noncustodial parent) has only 90 days a year, then mom has 275. Shared custody can also mean a total 50/50 custody arrangement, where each party has 182.5 days a year. A very, very wide range of custodial arrangements can qualify as shared custody, and the only distinction between a dad who gets 90 days and a dad who gets a full half of the year with the child(ren) is the amount of spousal support he pays.

Once you get into shared custody territory, there is a change in the level of child support. The level of child support in a shared custody arrangement depends on the amount of time each party spends with the child, so a dad who spends 90 days with the child will pay more in child support than a dad who spends 182.5 days each year with the child. The reasoning? If he’s with the child more, he is responsible for more meals and other expenses associated with taking care of a child.

What are the alternatives to shared custody?

There’s primary physical custody, which is a custodial arrangement in which the non-custodial parent has less than 90 days with the child(ren) a year. There’s also split custody, which happens when one parent takes primary physical custody of one child, and the other parent takes primary physical custody of another.

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