What is joint physical custody?

Joint custody is a relatively new form of custody that has gradually gained favor in many states. The traditional form of custody, called "sole custody," is when the child(ren) live with one parent, who makes all the decisions regarding the child(ren ’s welfare, and the child(ren) visit with the non-custodial parent. A common arrangement is Wednesday evening and every other weekend.

"Joint custody" can mean joint legal custody or joint physical custody. Joint legal custody, which is much more common than joint physical custody, means that both parents make decisions regarding the children’s health, education, welfare, etc. Joint physical custody means that the children spend a significant amount of time with each parent (multiple overnights in a row on a consistent basis). This does not necessarily mean that the time with the children is divided evenly between the parents.

An example arrangement of joint physical custody would be as follows: the children live with the father over the entire summer (June, July, and August) and with the mother for the rest of the year.