If you tell a group of people that today has a 50 percent chance of rain, a handful of them may actually think that means it’ll rain for half the day. That’s not how percentages work. Similarly, 50/50 custody may confuse some parents.
Types of Custody
Virginia’s family laws provide for a wide range of custody arrangements after separation and divorce. Virginia’s Code specifically mentions three types:
- Joint legal custody
- Joint physical custody
- Sole custody
Joint legal and joint physical custody have legal definitions:
“‘Joint custody’ means (i) joint legal custody where both parents retain joint responsibility for the care and control of the child and joint authority to make decisions concerning the child even though the child’s primary residence may be with only one parent, (ii) joint physical custody where both parents share physical and custodial care of the child, or (iii) any combination of joint legal and joint physical custody which the court deems to be in the best interest of the child.”
Notice Virginia does not say joint physical custody is a magic number, or exactly bifurcated. That means joint physical custody can be any permutation of time with each parent that works to best support the child:
The overriding concern, always, is that every schedule and plan be in the best interest of the child.
Getting 50/50 Custody
The idea of 50/50 custody is that both parents are equally involved in a child’s care and upbringing, with two homes in which the child feels at home. It does not mean your ex-spouse can hold a stopwatch as you arrive to pass Little Linda over to her for the next week, or either of you can run to your attorney for a few minutes’ parenting time missed here or there.
It does not mean Little Linda has to spend Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and half of Sundays at your ex-spouse’s house and then turn around to spend Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and half of Sundays at your place.
It means you and your ex-spouse work together to devise a visitation and custody plan that is sane, productive, and child centered. Perhaps you have Little Linda for two weeks and then your ex-spouse has her for two weeks; that may be ideal for Little Linda. The goals of 50/50 custody are:
- To best support the child’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development
- To nurture strong relationships with both parents
- To provide as smooth a transition as possible to the new way of life after separation and divorce for the child (not for the parents!)
Legal and Physical Custody
With 50/50 custody, you, the child’s other parent, and the courts need to set out clear guidelines on what the shared custody is:
- Is legal custody 50/50? This can be dicey, since the two of you may disagree about the child’s medical, legal, educational and spiritual interests, and in some cases a decision may be required immediately. If you two are at an impasse, you may not have time to have a judge make a legally binding decision on, say, an emergency operation. More efficient and possibly more humane is for one parent to assume full legal custody, even if physical custody is split 50/50.
- Is physical custody 50/50? This is the most common form of shared custody and is fairly easy to accomplish if both parents are keeping the child’s best interests foremost in their decision-making.
The parent having full legal custody should and probably will consult with the other parent about routine medical, dental, educational and spiritual matters. Perhaps Little Linda wants to spend two weeks at summer camp during a time you would ordinarily have her; you two can work that out to make Little Linda happy, and the legal custodian can handle all the paperwork.
The Best Interests of The Child
If you thought being a parent before separation and divorce did not leave you enough “me” time, we have some sad news for you: after separation and divorce, a significant chunk of your life and wallet will be devoted to doing what is legally best for your child.
If 50/50 custody is inconvenient to your schedule, drive, or commute, oh well. The two goals of all custody arrangements are to preserve family relationships and to help your child. It is not about you or your sense of getting one over on your ex-spouse.
You must be invested completely in providing a comfortable, welcoming home for your child to live in, not visit. Both parents must enforce rules and expectations, so one parent does not feel like “the parent” and the other like a glad-handing uncle or aunt. Both parents must communicate and possibly alter their work schedules so when one spouse drops Little Linda at school, the other parent picks her up for a seamless transition.
Call The Only Family Law Firm in Virginia Representing Men Exclusively!
If you need help exploring ways to make 50/50 custody work, start with your family law attorney. Your law firm’s experience is invaluable, and your attorney likely has many models to help you and your spouse.
When you partner with The Firm For Men to arrange child custody, parenting time schedules, and child support payments, you have a strong ally on your side. Your child’s best interests are uppermost. For us, though, your financial and emotional interests are just as vital. Contact us today or telephone our office at (757) 383-9184.