Where separated parents are in agreement on major issues affecting the life of their child and have little or no concern for the judgment of each other, they can opt for joint custody, sometimes also referred to as shared custody. Here both parents legally have an equal say as to decisions affecting their child. It is assumed that they can reach decisions either by consensus or by one acquiescing to the judgment of the other.
Joint custody respects the equally important role of both parents in the child’s life and may facilitate less conflict and more involvement on the part of both parents. From the child’s point of view, this can mean more harmonious relationships which in theory leads to better adjustment. Typically joint custody works best where there are low levels of conflict between the parents or even in moderate conflict but where the parents can resolve disputes maturely.
In some cases, parents opt for joint custody knowing they may periodically require the support of a mediator to reach certain decisions. If matters of violence, drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness or more than moderate levels of parental conflict exist, joint custody may be contra-indicated as it can lead to further conflict and distress to which the child would be exposed with potentially harmful consequences.
More recently, the concept of parallel parenting has entered into the social science literature. This form of joint custody denotes that major decisions are likely already in place, the result of mediation or Court Order and that both parents otherwise retain decision making authority while the child is in their respective care. In other words, both parents may make decisions about things like activities, as long as they do not interfere with the child’s time with the other parent.
For more information, contact the Family Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at http://www.familylawmarin.com/