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How to Make Joint Custody Work

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Aug 04, 2014 | 0 Comments

If you have children in South Carolina and do not live with the other parent, chances are you've thought long and hard about what custody arrangement you'd prefer. Increasingly, parents agree that joint custody arrangements are the best option, but this concept is often much more complicated than the parents might first imagine. This may lead you to wonder exactly how to make joint custody work?

What are the benefits?

It has become increasingly clear to the scientific community that children thrive when they have strong relationships with both parents. Having one party ripped away following a separation or divorce can be traumatic and lead to problems for the child later in life. One way to remedy that is to create a parenting plan that keeps two good parents significantly involved in their children's lives.

Most joint custody plans provide that both parents spend significant (though not necessarily equal) amounts of time with their children and that they have equal decision-making ability with regard to all or certain issues for their children. More and more families have embraced this approach in recent years, along with Family Court Judges, who are increasingly open to this concept.

What are the drawbacks?

Though joint custody can work well in many cases, there are potential downsides to the approach that must be considered and understood. For one thing, young children can experience stress and anxiety problems with physical custody schedules that include long periods of time away from one parent, such as those where parents alternate weeks.

Another concern in joint custody cases comes from children feeling nomadic, as if they have no permanent home and are forced to shuffle frequently from one place to another. Never being able to unpack a bag or create routines can take a toll on children, especially when they are younger.

What arrangements work best?

Though each family is different, experts almost universally agree that a long gap away from either parent is a bad idea when dealing with young children. In the case of kids under 10 years old, many believe that there should be relatively frequent transitions between parents, never keeping them away from one parent for longer than 3 to 5 days.

For these younger kids, a “split week” schedule might be a good option. In this type of schedule, the children spend the first half of the week with one parent and the second half with the other. In some cases, even these gaps may be too long for young kids and the rotations should occur more frequently.

As children get older, the constant shuffling back and forth may become more stressful than the time away from a parent, so it might be a good time to reevaluate your arrangement and consider longer gaps. For teens, alternating weeks might be a better fit and, in some cases, it can even be worth considering longer stays, possibly two weeks at a time.

Though joint custody can be a wonderful thing for South Carolina families, it can also go wrong if you aren't careful. Spend some time thinking through the challenges of your custody arrangement and how the schedule would work given the specifics of your family.

Source: “Best Visitation Schedule for Shared Custody?,” published at

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J. Benjamin Stevens

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