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Know the difference between custody and shared parenting in divorce

Custody (also called timesharing) and shared parenting are two different concepts. When going through a divorce, it is important to know how each of these differ when the judge allows partial or full custody of the children. The most important thing, however, is to always keep the child’s best interest in mind when making decisions for them on both of you and your exes’ behalf. This article explains the difference and why shared parenting is the norm in most cases.


Do understand what shared parenting means

Shared parenting means that the two parents both share in making decisions about their child or children. Decisions such as school, medical care and other things affecting the child’s well being are joint decisions. Parents need to confer with each other and reach an agreement about what is best for their children.

Do know what timesharing means

Timesharing has to do with where a child physically resides. Equal timesharing means that a child spends equal time living with both parents. It is possible to have shared parenting, but not equal timesharing.

Do understand that there may be shared parenting for some issues but not for others

Parents can agree, or a judge can decide, that one parent should make all decisions relating to one aspect of a child’s life. This is called ultimate parental responsibility. Examples include having one parent make all medical decisions, but the other parent might have a say in decisions regarding schooling or disciplinary actions.

Do keep in mind that shared parenting is customary in most cases

Generally, parents are considered joint decision makers. It is customary to award shared parental responsibility. In some extreme cases, one parent may be given parental responsibility for all decisions. But this is rare, and usually only the case when one parent is deemed mentally unable to make decisions on their child’s behalf.

Do understand that shared parenting is believed to be in a child’s best interest

Most judges, and most people, agree that two parents should be equally involved in their children’s lives. Because of this, shared parenting is awarded more often than not. A judge will not give one parent sole parental responsibility simply because the other parent feels that he/she is a better parent.


Do not use your child as a weapon

There are a lot of emotions in a divorce. It may be tempting to avoid shared parental responsibility because it forces you to communicate with your ex. This is not good for children. They need both of their parents to be involved in their lives whether you like it or not.

Do not refuse to communicate

It may be difficult to talk to your ex. You may even hate him or her. Remember that parenting is about your kids, and not about your relationship with your ex. If you have children together, chances are that you will have to speak to each other. Especially if you and your ex are under shared parenting, you need to do what you can to communicate with each other regarding the decisions for your child. It may be difficult, but it is in the best interest of your child.

Do not refuse to accommodate

Even though you and your ex are no longer together, you still have to work together. As hard as it may be, you need to listen to each other’s viewpoint when making a decision about your child’s best interest. Engaging in open dialogue and compromise is key.

Do not forget to focus on your children’s needs

Although you may dislike or even hate your ex, he or she is still your child’s parent and your child still loves the other parent. It is very important for your child to maintain a relationship with the other parent. Your child may need time with the other parent even though you would rather have that time with your child. As tough as it may be, always put your child’s needs first.

Do not argue about the past

Shared parenting is about the children and how you will raise them with your ex. Discussions should not be about the past or about your relationship. That time has passed and now that you and your ex are divorced, some things need to be left alone. Focus on your children and their needs.

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Shared parenting and custody are often confused terms. As you can see, they are separate concepts. Shared parenting is a likely outcome for a situation where you and your ex are no longer together. And it is generally the best outcome for your children.

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Lori BarkusFamily Law Attorney

South Florida Family Law Attorney Lori Barkus has 15 years of legal experience. She is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator, guardian ad litem and is trained in Collaborative Family Law. She handles matters ...

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