Shared custody agreements

Updated April 17, 2017

Divorce and separation are difficult life changes for children. Increasingly, courts and parents are moving away from the concept of sole or primary custody in favour of shared custody, in an attempt to minimise disruption, and help children cope and adjust.

Shared Physical Custody

Shared (or joint) physical custody means that children spend a large part of their time living with each parent. Shared custody is optional, just as sole custody is optional, although a judge can order either one if he thinks it's in the child's best interest.

Shared Legal Custody

Shared legal custody means that both parents have equal say in major decisions about how their children will be raised, such as religious training, medical treatment and education.


There are many options for shared physical custody. Some parents alternate weekends and holidays, some split the week in half, and some alternate months, weeks, or even years. Parents may even opt to keep the children in a single home, and take turns residing there.


Shared custody is an ideal situation for many families. There is less disruption in the children's lives, couples have more support in parenting, and children can have a stronger sense of belonging, as well as adequate time with both parents.


In shared custody agreements, children must often keep complex schedules and be constantly shuffled around, especially if their parents live far apart. If one parent is irresponsible or uncooperative, or if both parents are constantly in conflict, shared custody can do serious emotional damage to children.

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About the Author

Jessica Martinez is a freelance writer from Clayton, North Carolina. As a homeschooling mom, she enjoys writing about education, child development and family issues. Martinez also enjoys researching and writing about subjects she loves: history, art, interior design, gardening and travel.