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What Is the Difference Between Joint Custody and Shared Custody?

Morristown NJ Shared Child Custody LawyersWhen it comes to New Jersey child custody laws, the various terminologies used can often be extremely similar to one another, and yet mean fundamentally very different things. For example, many of our Morris County clients communicate to us that they would like “joint custody” of their children as part of their divorce settlement agreement. However, most of the time what these parents are really asking for is roughly equal parenting time and visitation with their children, perhaps not realizing that child custody goes beyond just parenting time as the issues of legal and physical child custody will also need to be decided.

Physical and Legal Child Custody Attorneys Mt. Olive, NJ

The first aspect of child custody that should be understood during any Morris County divorce is that of the difference between physical custody and legal custody. A parent who is granted legal custody will have the authority to make important decisions for their children regarding things like education, health care, religion, and other important life decisions. So for example, a parent with legal custody would have the authority to decide to have their children confirmed (or not confirmed) in a certain religion, or have the authority to decide to send their children to a private school, some kind of home school program, or public school, etc.

On the other hand, physical custody simply refers to a parent who is afforded some amount of “parenting time” with their children. All child custody decisions, such as during a divorce, as part of a parent’s request to relocate with their children, any kind of child custody modification matter, or even a child custody enforcement dispute, begin with the legal understanding with the belief that each parent should be accorded as much visitation time as possible with their children. This understanding is then changed to adapt to what the court finds to be in the best interests of the children involved.

So when most parents refer to “joint custody”, they are usually referring to some kind of shared physical custody arrangement.

Joint Custody and Shared Child Custody in Morris County Child Custody Decisions

When it comes to “joint custody” in New Jersey and Morris County, it is much more often referred to as “shared custody” by family law judges and attorneys. This is because the word “joint” evokes the idea of exactly equal in many people’s minds, and child custody decisions are almost never “exactly equal”. More often than not one parent or the other is designated as “the parent of primary residence”, a determination which will affect where the children attend school, which address they use for formal government and institutional documents, and which parent will be receiving the child support payments.

Additionally, most physical custody arrangements will involve one parent with something like 60% parenting time and the other 40%, simply because courts will find it in the best interests of the children to have a more stable home life than to be constantly shuffling back and forth between two different homes. However just because child custody is most often not awarded on a precisely 50/50 basis, that isn’t to say parents can’t still “share” child custody. This idea of shared custody can either include parents sharing physical and legal child custody, or sharing physical custody with one parent having legal custody.

Contact Our Morristown Shared Child Custody Lawyers Today

At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping parents to fairly and effectively resolve child custody decisions and disputes of all kinds in towns across New Jersey and Morris County, including Mt. Olive, Chester, Chatham, Mendham, Morris Plains, Harding, and Morristown.

Whether you are interested in sharing legal and physical custody of your children with a co-parent, or are simply concerned over securing your parental rights to spend as much time as possible with your children and play an important role in their lives, our firm is prepared to provide you with the highly knowledgeable, effective, and attentive legal counsel that you need and deserve in such critical matters.

To speak with our legal team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding any kind of child custody decision during a divorce, as part of a parent’s request to relocate with their children, or any kind of post-divorce child custody modification or child custody enforcement issue you may be facing, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 840-8970.