I have previously discussed joint legal custody and joint physical custody. See posts from March 13, 2014, April 24, 2014, and July 9, 2014.
It is possible for divorced couples to share joint legal custody without sharing joint physical custody, and vice versa. However, the vast majority of the time when parents share joint physical custody, they will also share joint legal custody and will have a detailed parenting plan.
Another type of custody arrangement is where one parent has primary physical custody of one or more of the children while the other parent has primary physical custody of the other children. This is referred to as “split custody.”
Anyone who has seen the classic Disney movie “The Parent Trap” (either the older version with Hayley Mills or the newer version with Lindsay Lohan) will recognize that the parents in that movie had split custody of their identical twin daughters. One parent raised a girl in California while the other parent raised the other girl somewhere on the east coast. The divorce presumably happened when the girls were too young to remember, and they did not meet again until by an extraordinary made-for-Hollywood coincidence at a summer camp.
The movie illustrates in a very obvious way why it is not always in the children’s best interests to be split up. It is curious that the identical twins in that movie did not even remember each other until they met at the summer camp. Their parents were apparently so estranged from each other that they did not even exercise visitation with the child in the other parent’s custody. While that story makes for exciting drama on the silver screen, it seems obvious that it does not present an ideal scenario for raising children post-divorce.
But one can imagine different scenarios in which split custody might make sense. One example might be where there are several children whose ages differ widely. Some children may have a stronger attachment or bond with one parent than the other. It may be appropriate for some of the older children to live with one parent and the younger children to live with the other parent. Or, there may be circumstances where, following a divorce, it may be difficult for each parent to handle all of the children at one time.
At any rate, this may be another reason why a presumption of one type of custody over another may not be the wisest idea. This is because the individual circumstances of divorcing couples with children may vary so widely that a one size fits all approach could be too cumbersome to work.
This material should not be construed as legal advice for any particular fact situation, but is intended for general informational purposes only. For advice specific to any individual situation, an experienced attorney should be contacted.