How to Win Joint Custody in a Divorce?

The institution of marriage, despite many socio-legal changes, remains the most common precursor of the family. It is because of this that a dissolution of marriage impacts more than the divorcing couple and one of the biggest questions to emerge is who the kids will stay with. If for certain reasons you wish for joint custody of your kids in a divorce, here is how you can go about it.

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What is joint custody?

It is best to begin with a full understanding of the term joint custody as well as its difference from other kids of custody. This will not only help you decide on the most effective ways to apply for it but enable you to understand if this is what you are actually looking for. Joint custody is a kind of custodial arrangement of kids of divorcing parents according to which both parents share custody of the kid/s equally. This is different from sole custody in which one parent is made the primary guardian – legal, physical or both – of the kids while the other has visitation rights.

Joint custody may in turn be of two different kinds, joint physical custody and joint legal custody. According to the former both parents get to spend substantial time with their kids. This does not mean that the divorced couple continues to reside in the same house for the sake of being with kids or even an exact mathematical division of time with each parent. Instead it is based on reasonable time with each parent either specifically spelled out like certain days and weeks of the year, school holidays, and alternative periods or based on stated guidelines and shared payment of costs of raising the child. If the parents cannot agree on a schedule, it is left to the court to impose an arrangement.

Joint legal custody on the other hand means that both parents can make decisions for the child in matters like schooling, medical treatment and religious upbringing but where possible they should consult the other. Upon the death or disability of either parent, legal custody will go to the remaining parent and will give the active parent the sole ability to act as parent for the child without further order of the court. The primary affect of this is a psychological benefit for the parent and the child, so that a child can be told that both parents cared for the child, even though the child had to live most of the time with one of them.

It is common for couples who share physical custody to also share legal custody, but not necessarily the other way around. There is even a joint custody arrangement where the children remain in the family home and the parents take turns moving in and out, spending their out time in separate housing of their own. This is called "bird's nest custody."

Work together with your ex

Ideally decisions regarding child custody should be taken with complete agreement from both spouses. It is best if you can reach a mutual agreement without contesting custodial arrangements in court. For instance, try and agree with your ex on how the kids are going to split their holidays and weekends ; other joint physical custody arrangements include alternating months, years, or six-month periods with each parent. Once the judge sees you and your ex capable of working harmoniously to arrive at mutually-satisfactory custodial arrangements, he/she is more likely to allow joint custody.

However in case you are not able to arrive at a consensus with your ex over custodial issues, you still have a fair chance of winning joint custody of your kids. Most courts these days will routinely grant joint custody since it is now increasingly being accepted that children cope better with divorce, if their parents follow co-parenting. In order to convince the court that you deserve joint custody, ensure that you present your case in a calm and balanced manner; as far as possible, avoid a high-conflict court case, spewing venom against or launching wild accusations at your ex. The more the court sees you as a mature, capable person and parent, the easier it will be for you to seek joint custody of your kids.

Give proof of your contribution to child-rearing

Earlier the sole custody of children in case of divorce was commonly given to mothers – unless they were obviously unfit as in case of alcoholics or serial adulterers – since it was believed that kids are best brought up by their moms. However now with increased importance of co-parenting, it is quite possible for fathers also to seek joint custody. So if you are in such a situation, you can make a strong case for joint custody though you will have to give evidence of your positive role in bringing up your kids. So think of ways you can show that you have provided a lot of time and care to your kids like planning birthday parties, taking them to the doctor, attending school plays and hundreds of other things. Also if you can show that there has been no primary caregiver and you and your spouse have always split child-rearing duties equally, this will help you get joint custody.

Proof of positive environment

Yet another crucial aspect noted by courts while giving custody of kids is which parent can provide a loving, stable and safe home environment. If you are contesting your ex’s demand for sole custody and/or are pitching for joint custody, you need to show that you can provide a good home, appropriate support and supervision and offer a nice place for your children to spend some of  their time. If you can prove these things, this will help you to get joint custody as well.

Finally it helps to be methodical and disciplined in your finances. If you already have a joint custody arrangement or are trying for one, maintain detailed and organized financial records of expenses on your kids. Keep receipts for groceries, school and after-school activities, clothing, and medical care. At some point your ex may claim she or he has spent more money on the kids than you have, which is when your detailed records will come in handy.