What is shared custody exactly? How is it different from the sole custody which my ex has now and how is it different

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Customer: Dear Ulysses,What is shared custody exactly? How is it different from the sole custody which my ex has now and how is it different from joint custody which we already talked about?
Answered by Ulysses101 in 17 mins 2 years ago
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Ulysses101, Expert

Thanks for requesting.

You'll recall that custody is about decision making authority. If your ex has sole custody, she can make the major decisions about which school, religion, medical procedures, and extracurricular activities by herself. She doesn't need your permission, unless the contract or order stipulates that (which is often in the order).

Joint custody is where each parent has equal decision making authority, which means that neither can unilaterally make such decisions. Both parents have to agree. In a joint custody situation, the contract or order will then stipulate which parent has primary residence of the child, which then of course leads to the schedule of time sharing and then child support flowing from the non-residential to the residential parent.

When the child spends approximately half time with each parent, ie somewhere between 40% and 60% with each, usually calculated simply from the number of overnights spent with each parent, then we usually call that shared custody. It's joint custody, but the child has a primary residence with each parent, so there are two primary residences.

This is co-parenting in the best sense of the word, only the parents are not living together. It rarely works well unless both parents want to do it in good faith, and then it works great. Too often, it's agreed to as a "truce" between parents who each wanted custody, and then the battle still smoulders for years to the detriment of the child.

A court will order shared custody, in my experience, in one of two situations:

1. Where there was a status quo of approximately equal time sharing and then one parent unilaterally changed that leading the other to bring it to court, or

2. Where both parents agree to it.

A court will rarely make a shared custody order over the objections of one parent because for shared custody to work both of the parents have to be going into it willing and able and for the right reasons.

There are lots of "shared custody" situations which never go to court, so parents can often work things out themselves which is great. Perhaps with the help of a mediator they'll agree to it. But court is inherently polarizing and hostile, so going to court seeking shared custody when that hasn't been the status quo rarely succeeds, unless the person asking has some good leverage on the other side.

If you're considering going to court to ask for shared custody, we should talk about this further or speak to the lawyer you're going to use. You need solid evidence, and you have to be able to appear to be doing it purely for the child's best interests rather than your own (ie to lower your child support payments).

Does that make sense? I'm here if you have further comment or question on this topic.

If I've answered you, I'd appreciate a service rating please.

Thanks. What can I get my overnights up to 40% as I don't have my son that much of the time now with the current order?

Ulysses101, Expert

Good question, I'm glad you read through what I wrote.

You can start by trying to negotiate some extra nights here and there from your ex. For instance, if you have access on weekends from Friday night to Sunday night, start trying to get your ex to agree to you have Sunday overnight too and you'll take the child to school on Monday morning (if you can); maybe say "let's just try it for a while and see" and then after a few times she has Sunday night to herself, she'll quite possibly agree to that continuing. Of course, you have to be in a position to have the child for this extra time, and take the child directly to school (or to the child's nomal bus stop) on time, with a good lunch and homework done and all that.

Another thing to try if you aren't getting it now is an extra day with you when the Friday or Monday around your weekend is a day off of school. If the Friday before your weekend is a PD day, then see if you can get the child on Thursday night instead of Friday night. This might be harder for you depending on your work schedule, but if you work from home or have some control over your work hours, you should give this a try. You'll know early in the school year what the PD days are. If your ex works, then you taking the child on PD days makes more sense than a babysitter and is cheaper, so why would she refuse? Makes sense. And soon enough, that becomes the status quo and you've picked up more nights.

Push for more time in the summer. If you start getting a few weeks in the summer time you're a lot closer to the 40%. If she lets you get to almost 40% and then puts her foot down, it's because she knows what you're trying to do. Then you start pushing for more time; rather than pick up from her after dinner, pick up before dinner, or even better pick up from school.

If you can't get more overnights, then do more pick up and dropoff to school rather than to her home. That's also a benchmark of being a caregiver. On a five day schoolweek there will be 10 opportunities to drop off at school or pick up from school. Doing more of those is almost as good as having more overnights, for obvious reasons. If you only have 30% of the overnights but you do half of the pickup/dropoff re school, you have a strong argument that you're essentially an equal caregiver.

But this has to be done as long term plan, with patience and co-operation and always keeping a child focussed approach.

I hope that answers you and makes sense to you.

Thanks for the rating, that's great.

It helps. Thanks very much. I may have some more questions for you as well.

Ulysses101, Expert

My pleasure! We've covered a lot of ground here, and I hope you'll start another thread for the next topic.

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