Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

Shared parenting differs from sole custody following divorce

If you and your spouse are headed for divorce, one of your biggest concerns if you have children is who will get custody of them. Should you pursue sole custody, or would a shared parenting arrangement work better?

An increasing number of divorcing parents are pushing for shared parenting these days as it may make it possible for both parties to stay involved in the children's lives. Here is a glimpse at what both types of custody arrangements involve following a divorce in California.

What is sole custody?

In a sole custody situation, you or the other party gains exclusive legal and physical custody of the children. If you are the one granted sole custody, you can better control how your children are reared, including how you plan to educate them.

A sole custody arrangement is ideal if you and the other party do not live near each other or have poor communication. It is also necessary if the court deems one of you an unfit parent. However, even if you end up with sole custody of the children, the other parent can still enjoy time with your children through a visitation schedule.

What is shared parenting?

With shared parenting, both you and the other party share responsibility for making decisions for your children. In addition, your parenting time is typically shared in a more equal manner. For shared parenting to work, both you and the other party should agree on the following areas when it comes to caring for your children:

  • Social and extracurricular activities
  • Religious upbringing
  • Medical care
  • Educational decisions
  • Financial responsibilities

The benefit of a shared parenting arrangement is that you both can play a major role in the children's lives. In this situation, you can typically expect child support payments to be lower than they would be in a situation where one parent has sole custody of the children.

Your rights when it comes to child custody during divorce

During divorce, it is within your rights to pursue the arrangement that you feel is best for you. Of course, what is in the children's best interests is a critical consideration as well -- and one that the court prioritizes. If you and the other party can come up with a parenting agreement that reflects both of your wishes, you can avoid court intrusion. Otherwise, the court will ultimately decide on the child custody arrangement that it deems most appropriate given your divorce situation.

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