Joint Child Custody: How to Create Your Child Visitation Schedule

By Victoria McGrath

You have the power to negotiate a visitation schedule that works well for you. If you and your ex-partner agree to share joint child custody, you can generally create a child custody and visitation schedule with or without a court order. When you enter into the custody agreement, you are both bound by its terms. However, the agreement cannot legally be enforced until the court approves it and issues a child custody order.

Joint Child Custody

The child visitation schedule that you create depends on the laws of your state, and whether you have joint legal or physical custody of the child. For joint legal custody, you each have an equal right to make decisions regarding your child's educational institution, religious instruction, health care and general welfare. For joint physical custody, you each share the responsibility to supervise your child and provide housing, clothing, food, transportation and basic necessities. A visitation schedule may detail the physical time that a parent cares for the child.

Shared Physical Custody

Joint physical custody is often referred to as shared physical custody. Physical custody can be shared 50/50 in which the child spends two weeks with one parent, then two weeks with the other parent. But it often varies, due to logistics and other considerations. If one parent has the child less than half the time, that parent usually has visitation rights which are specified in a visitation schedule.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Special Needs of the Child

The visitation schedule depends on practical considerations, such as the child's daily routine, parents' work schedules, availability and distance between parents’ homes. The agreement also takes into consideration the emotional bonds with each parent, child’s primary caregiver, participation of siblings in visitation and complexities of the separation or divorce. The visitation schedule can include special needs that are unique to each child, such as medical needs, orthodontic appointments and extracurricular activities.

Child's Developmental Stage

Custody and visitation schedules may vary based on a child's developmental stage. The agreement may account for the child’s age, ability to separate from each parent and mental state. Parents can structure visitation around the child’s needs at this time and plan for future changes based on developmental milestones. For example, parents can decide that a toddler needs to sleep in her own bed each night at the primary caregiver's residence until she reaches a specific age, such as school age or 5 years old.

Standard Visitation Schedule

State courts, legal aid services and legal document providers often use court-approved form documents for visitation schedules. For example, the State of Oklahoma uses a standard visitation schedule that specifies week-end visitation, night visitation, holiday visitation and summer visitation. This standard visitation form works for parents with joint legal custody and joint physical custody, where one parent is the primary caregiver and the other parent has standard visitation rights including week-end, evening and summer visitation. It also works in a case in which one parent has sole physical custody and the other parent has visitation rights.

Mediation and Negotiations

If you do not agree on joint child custody or all the terms of the agreement, the judge can require you to participate in court-ordered mediation. A mediator works with both parents to negotiate the terms of the agreement. The mediator can help parents draft an agreement to be approved by the court. The judge approves custody arrangements that you agree on if they appear reasonable and in the best interest of the child.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
What Are Parental Rights in a Divorce?


Related articles

Child Custody Laws in Louisiana

The law in Louisiana presumes that joint custody is in the best interest of minor children. The long-held notion that custody should go to the mother has become outdated in Louisiana and many other states. If you are in the process of divorce, Louisiana law encourages estranged spouses to work out a mutually agreeable parenting plan and custody arrangements for their kids.

Shared Custody Agreements

In the past, most custody arrangements granted primary custody to mothers, giving only a few days of visitation to fathers. Recognizing the importance of promoting both parents' ongoing involvement with their children, however, many states now favor some form of shared custody. Shared custody arrangements can be ordered by a judge or agreed to by the parents, and they may be structured in a variety of ways.

Rights of Divorced Parents Sharing Custody of a Child

While child custody and visitation is dictated by state law, every state awards custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child standard. In other words, parents must show that the visitation and custody that they are requesting represents what is best for the child. States do not automatically award custody to the mother or the father, and sometimes parents share custody of their children.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

An Example of a Child Custody Schedule

Continued contact with both parents after divorce is important to a child's development. Unless there has been ...

What Is the Difference Between Custodial Parent & Primary Physical Custody?

During your divorce, the court awards physical custody -- which determines where your child resides -- to either you, ...

Joint Legal Custody Agreement

During a divorce, couples with minor children must resolve child custody issues, including legal custody and physical ...

What Does Joint Custody Consist of in NC?

North Carolina statutes do not define joint custody and rarely award joint custody to both parents of minor children. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED