When we think about the words “shared” and “joint,” we often think of them as meaning the same thing; in fact we often use them interchangeably. However, when they are used in reference to child custody, there are some very big differences, which it is important to be aware of.

Shared custody focuses more on time that each parent spends with the children, as well as only legal and not physical custody of the children. Whereas joint custody involves each parent’s responsibilities, equal rights, and division of time for the children between each parent’s home.

Below we look at the differences between the two.

Shared Custody

Shared custody addresses the legalities of custody, but not the physical custody of the children. In shared custody, each parent is generally entitled to a similar amount of time, particularly caring for and housing the kids. However, in terms of health care, religion, and education of the children, parental rights may or may not be shared.

If these responsibilities and choices are shared by both parents, the parents must try to cooperate with one another and make decisions in the best interest of their children.

Some examples of situations that may call for shared custody instead of joint custody include:

  • One parent is away for stretches of time
  • One parent is financially unstable
  • One parent is unable to care for the children, whether it be due to injury, illness, or otherwise

As far as visitation is concerned, the best scenario is for both parents to agree upon a schedule. If the parents are unable to do so, a judge will determine which one is to be awarded primary custody, and may arrange a visitation schedule.

Joint Custody

As for joint custody, both parents are to share the decisions and responsibilities of raising the children equally. This requires the parents to work together, make cohesive decisions, and determine schedules and other shared responsibilities.

Some examples of situations that may call for joint custody include:

  • Both parents reside and work within the same area
  • The parents both want to house the children
  • The welfare of the children is best served by this arrangement
  • The children are teenagers

In regards to joint custody, a rotating schedule is usually created between both parents. For example, weekdays versus weekend.

Again, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement, a judge is given the task of deciding the amount of time the children spend with each parent.