There was an interesting segment today on NPR's Morning Edition on a father's rights group leading the charge to change custody laws. The group wants to change the laws so that courts are more likely to grant joint physical custody. Joint physical custody is when the child/children spend equal time with each parent.
Joint physical custody can take many forms in a daily schedule. For example, a parent has one week with the kids and the next week the kids are with the other parent. In that type of scenario, the change in custody occurs only once per week usually after school on Fridays or at the beginning of the week on Monday morning. This is popular when there is friction between the parents as it minimizes the number of times the parents interact. The change in custody can occur at the end of an activity so that the parents do not have to see each other-- the child is dropped off at soccer practice by one parent and the other parent picks up the child.
Another popular schedule is 2-2-5-5 as shown in the graphic above. In the table, M is for Mother and F is for Father. This schedule works well for parents who travel out of town for work on some days of the week. It is also helpful when a child consistently has a specific activity on a certain day of the week where one parent is more involved in that activity (for example, if the child always has Math Team on Tuesdays and Mother is the coach) or when one parent's schedule is more flexible to allow the child to participate in an activity (for example, when child has a dance class that starts at 4pm on Thursdays and Father works from home on Thursdays and has a bit more flexibility on those afternoons).
When we advise clients on joint physical custody, we discuss a few factors:
- Age of the children
- Children's special needs
- Distance between parents
- Distance between each parent and the children's school and extra-curricular events
- The ability and interest of each parent to set up a household that mirrors the other home so that children have similar toys and sufficient clothing at each home.
- Parent's work schedules
- Parent's ability to cooperate and communicate with one another
Regardless of how well joint physical custody may work for parents, Georgia courts award custody based on the child's best interests. If you think that joint physical custody may be what is best for your child, discuss it with your attorney.