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What Prevents Shared Custody?

Experts prefer shared custody for children, however physical or legal joint custody can be prevented by certain parental circumstances.

Types of custody 

Shared custody, more commonly known as joint custody, is when both parents hold custody rights to care for their children. There are two types of custody rights you might share as a parent: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody establishes who your child lives with, and legal custody establishes who has the right to make legal decisions on behalf of your child. 

If you have joint physical custody, you share the lodging and care of your child with their other parent as dictated by a parenting schedule. If you have joint legal custody, both you and your child’s other parent share the responsibility of making major life decisions on behalf of your minor child about things like school, medical care, and religion. 

It is common for one parent to have sole physical custody and both parents to share legal custody rights, where one parent has visitation rights. It is not common for there to be shared physical custody, where only one parent is granted legal custody rights. 

What could prevent physical custody? 

Most courts want to award both parents joint physical and legal custody, as it is in the child’s best interest to have a relationship and spend time with both parents. However, the court will award sole physical custody to a single parent if they believe it is best for the child. 

If one parent has a history of abuse or neglect that would potentially expose the child to physical or psychological harm, it might prevent the court from granting them shared physical custody. Additionally, if one parent has substance abuse or mental health issues that could prevent the parent from providing proper care for the child, shared physical custody could be denied. 

While you may think that getting sole physical custody in these situations will be easy, don’t be surprised if it becomes a long and challenging process. Even if you are granted sole physical custody, the court will still likely work to bring the other parent back into your child’s life through visitation rights, supervised if necessary, or ordering mediation and counseling. This is because psychological experts and law professionals agree that joint custody often results in a much better outcome for the child. Other reasons a parent might not be granted shared physical custody include: 

  • Jail time - If one parent is in jail or prison, they cannot provide a home or care for the child, preventing physical custody.  
  • Relocation - If one parent is going to move out of state or out of the country, sometimes sole physical custody with visitation rights is best for the child. 

What could prevent legal custody? 

The situations that could prevent a parent from gaining shared legal custody are similar to the situations that could prevent them from gaining shared physical custody. 

  • Ongoing drug or alcohol abuse 
  • Child abuse or neglect 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Mental health issues 
  • Jail time 
  • Relocation 

A custody agreement could change at any time 

The most important aspect of joint custody to understand is that any custody agreement can be changed at any time if one parent petitions the court and shows a change of circumstance. Custody is a complex subject, and the laws vary by state and jurisdiction. If you have questions about custody, we recommend that you contact an experienced family law attorney in your area to learn more.  

If you and your co-parent need help managing your joint custody responsibilities, check out TalkingParents. Our cutting-edge co-parenting features make it easy to communicate and coordinate with each other, while keeping everything organized and documented. 

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