Q. What does one mean by joint physical custody?
A divorce or a legal separation leads parents to take a call on the custody of the child. If both parents want to share the responsibility of the physical care of the child, then this will lead them to file for a joint physical custody. However, the court decides on the judgment considering the best interest of the child. It is not mandatory that the child spend equal time with both the parents; but parents do wish that maximum time is spent with them. Consensus is generally a requirement and modification to the arrangement will be possible only if a petition is filed in the court.
Q. What do parents need to do to obtain joint physical custody?
A petition would need to be filed by the parents in the family court. In the event that one of the parents is not able to share the custody of the child, the court may decide against granting joint physical custody to the parents.
Q. Can one differentiate between the custodial and non-custodial parent?
If the child spends more than 50% of the time with one parent, then that parent may be considered as the custodial parent. However, if the child spends the same amount of time with both the parents; then one may not be able to differentiate between a custodial and a non-custodial parent. Generally, both the parents equally share the rights and responsibilities that come across in raising a child.
Q. If a parent is being deployed, is it possible to modify the arrangement?
Majority of the cases will have a parent who has been awarded the primary custody of the child. If this parent is being deployed, then a petition for temporary custody can be filed by the other parent. Laws regarding joint physical custody may differ from one state to the other.
Q. If the child starts living with the parent who is paying child support, can that parent stop paying child support?
In a custody ruling, one of the parents is generally held responsible to pay child support. One may be subjected to punishment if child support is not paid. Further, one may be required to pay child support though the child is living with the parent who is paying. However, a petition can be filed in the court if the parent feels that the child support and custody agreement needs to be reviewed and revised as the case may be.
It is cumbersome to raise a child after a divorce or after a separation as it involves considering a lot of factors that would determine the child's future. One may approach a family lawyer for any clarifications regarding the custody laws before a decision is made.