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What's the difference between joint physical and legal custody?

Child custody disputes are generally resolved one of three different ways: the parents may work out a parenting plan among themselves, they may have an attorney or mediator step in to help them resolve their differences or when negotiations break down, they let a judge decide. In the case of the latter, the judge's responsibility is to make a decision that is in the best interest of the child.

Given that many recent studies have shown that a child getting to spend time with both parents is better for his or her overall well-being, it's likely that he or she will rule that you two should share joint custody of your child. If the judge decides this , then the terminology "joint custody" is generally utilized to refer to either one of the following arrangements: joint legal custody or a combination of both joint physical and legal custody.

Joint legal custody is the more common type of arrangement a judge will order in a case. It refers to a situation in which the two parents share the decision-making responsibilities for their child equally.

In this situation, one of the parents is still awarded physical custody of the child by the judge. This allows the child to have a defined, stable place of residence. However, it requires that the parents to come together and make joint decisions regarding all important matters that could impact the welfare of the child.

In contrast, with joint physical and legal custody, it requires that the parents to share both decision-making regarding important matters in their child's life as well as actual physical custody of the them equally.

Judges rarely order this type of arrangement in resolving custody disputes. This is because this type of arrangement involves a lot of shuffling of the child back and forth between homes and both parents having to foot the costs associated with having to maintain separate housing for them. This type of situation is considered to be both challenging logistically and mentally taxing for those subjected to it.

If you and your ex have split up and you're both interested in working out a shared parenting plan, then a Fort Myers child custody attorney can advise you of the different options that may be applicable in your case.

Source: FindLaw, "Joint custody," accessed Oct. 06, 2017

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