In Tennessee, there are two types of custody – physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody determines where a child lives. Legal custody determines who makes decisions about the child’s welfare and upbringing. Visitation schedules determine when a child spends time with the parent who doesn’t have physical custody. Each type of custody can be shared. Alternatively, one parent can have sole legal and/or sole physical custody of a child.
Often, though, it is best for both the children and the parents if the parents split physical custody which means the children spend comparatively the same amount of time which each parent.
The advantages of shared custody
The starting point in all custody arrangements should be what is in the best interests of the children, as opposed to what is in the best interests of the parent.
If physical custody is shared:
- The children see each parent on a regular basis. This has several benefits for the children:
- The children can readily appreciate that both parents love them and want what’s best for them
- The children understand that the parents have put their domestic differences between them so that children won’t expect hostilities between the parents
- The children have two parents they can talk to on a regular basis
- The children won’t feel like they have to take sides
- The children have a broader family experience. They’ll have more relationships with cousins, aunts, and uncles if they’re involved in the lives of both parents.
- The parents don’t need to go it alone. If physical custody is shared, each parent can then have better communication with the other parent. For example, both parents will have a better understanding of their child’s life which they can share with each other. Each parent will also have more time to start new relationships with other people.
The disadvantages of shared/split custody
There are some difficulties and downsides to sharing custody of a child/children:
- Shared custody simply may not be practical if the parents live in different school districts or if one parent cannot be home when the child is home – especially after school hours.
- The constant moving back and forth can make the child feel less stable and less secure.
- It may not work if the parents have not put their hostilities behind them. It does not help the children to experience the constant tension of parental conflict. Conflicts can lead to power struggles which are horrible for children.
Decisions about child custody agreements need to consider other factors too, such as:
- The age of the children
- The social relationships of the children with other family members and with friends
- The availability of day care services
At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we understand how difficult divorce is on both parents and children. We are experienced at crafting solutions based on the best interests of the children while accommodating the work and personal needs of the parents. In many cases, we reach agreements without the need for contested litigation. We see family law clients in our Tennessee locations in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood. Please call our office at 615-977-9370 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.