Joint Physical Custody:
Neither parent has the child for less than 128 overnights
Custody Schedule: Even with joint physical custody the schedule is different in each case.
Physical custody is an issue of where the child(ren) reside and with whom. While the vast majority of divorced and single parents share joint “legal” custody, the vast majority of parents do not have joint physical custody. The reason so few parents have joint physical custody is often not just a legal question. Having more than one physical home can be a challenge even for adults.
A judge I once worked for would always ask the parents if they could change their home every few days as a test of their commitment for a joint physical custody arrangement. If they demonstrated to him they would be able to do it ; he would consider a joint physical custody order.
Obviously a true joint custody arrangement requires AT LEAST a basic ability to communicate and agree on issues regarding the children.
Issues by example ar
- school bags
- emergency cards
- extracurricular activities etc.
Once it is clear the parties can have the requisite desire and ability to communicate and cooperate and that they agree upon the principle of joint physical custody then more practical issues come into play.
Some of the more common practical issues involved in 50/50 physical custody are: accommodations at the respective homes, bus and other school transportation, work schedules, school schedules, the distance between the households, involvement of relatives like grandparents and new spouses or significant others. I have had many clients move just so that they were of a sufficient proximity between the schools and households. I have had clients modify their work hours to permit joint physical custody and I have seen countless parents work out creative solutions to the challenges that surround joint physical custody.
I have previously described that “legal” custody is a “catch 22” that the courts will virtually never compel the parties to exercise. In contrast, the courts will often issue decisions of joint physical custody breaking an impasse on questions such as days, exchange times and vacations.
It should also be noted that very, very few parents with joint physical custody swap the children on a week by week basis and even fewer swap on a daily basis. Generally the children are not exchanged more often than twice a week . Weekly swaps are not uncommon during academic breaks such as the summer.
I know of a case where the mother moved from the family home in Frederick Maryland to Georgia. The father remained here in Frederick and the parties met in North Carolina. That is unusual but demonstrates how the court can make square pegs fit in round holes during the summer vacation.