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What is the Most Common Custody Arrangement in the US?

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By Liz B. Gatsby
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What is the most common custody arrangement in the US

When couples divorce, one of the biggest challenges is deciding how to divide their children’s time. Custody arrangements often require negotiation and compromise to achieve the best outcomes for the child.

There are many different options, but the most common is shared custody. This gives both parents the opportunity to spend time with their children, while making major decisions about their well-being together.

Sole Custody

Sole custody is one of the most common custody arrangements in the US. It typically awards a parent complete legal and physical responsibility for a child, which means they are responsible for all important life decisions for the child.

However, sole custody is becoming less common. Many states now award joint custody as the default, especially when a parent has mental health or drug problems that make it unsafe to share parenting time with another person.

It also applies when parents live in different time zones, countries or states. They have a hard time communicating and making decisions on short notice.

In these situations, it’s often best for children to have their best interests in mind and have a relationship with both parents as much as possible. Regardless of the type of custody arrangement, you should never pursue sole legal custody if it is not in your child’s best interest.

Joint Custody

The most common custody arrangement in the US is joint custody, which involves both legal and physical custody. It requires both parents to work together and to communicate well enough to keep each other informed about the child’s needs.

Joint legal custody involves both parents making major decisions about the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing. These decisions include, but are not limited to, the child’s religious beliefs, medical care, travel plans, and schooling.

Similarly, joint physical custody involves the child spending equal or near-equal time living with each parent. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including an alternate week plan or a 2-2-3 schedule.

Full Custody

Full custody (also called sole custody) is when one parent has legal and physical custody. Generally, this means that the child lives with the custodial parent and has visitation rights to the noncustodial parent.

The court may also award joint physical custody, where the children live with both parents for equal time each week. This arrangement is often called “bird’s nest” custody, because the children always stay in the same home with both parents.

When judges award full custody, they are usually trying to find the best possible situation for the children. They may consider factors like parental income, the parenting plan, and the relationship between the child and each parent.

Judges may order child support for the noncustodial parent, if that is required by law. They may also order supervised visitation, especially in cases where the noncustodial parent has a history of being abusive or otherwise a threat to the children.

Visitation

Regardless of what type of custody you get, visitation is an important part of keeping kids close to both parents after a divorce. It can also help keep children from growing up feeling like they have to choose between one parent and another, which can be a devastating thing for a child.

A typical visitation arrangement includes alternating weekend overnight visits, weekday visitation and division of school breaks and holidays. This schedule can also include a summer vacation.

If you want to change the terms of your visitation, it’s typically required to make a case in court. This is because courts want to promote stability for all children, not just the one who lives with the custodial parent.

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