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What is split custody?

You may have heard of joint custody and sole custody, but what about split custody? The first thing you should know is that it's very uncommon, but it has been used.

Joint custody means that both parents have rights and essentially share the children. They have to work together to make legal and medical decisions, for instance, and the children may go back and forth between their homes every other week. This shares the responsibility.

Sole custody is when one parent either has no rights or just retains visitation rights, but the other parent is fully in charge of the children. Sole legal custody means that parent alone makes legal and medical decisions for the children, along with other important choices, while sole physical custody means the children only live with that parent.

Split custody, then, is used for families with multiple children, dividing the kids between the parents. For instance, perhaps a couple has a son and a daughter. The father winds up with sole custody of the son and the mother ends up with sole custody of the daughter. The opposite parent may still be able to visit and spend time with the other child, but the parent with custody makes decisions and lives with the child.

The reason this isn't used often is that both parents would have to be "fit" to be awarded custody. If they are both fit, then why cut one child out of each parent's life? Why potentially harm the relationship between the siblings? Courts always consider the best interests of the children, so they'd likely just award joint custody to keep both kids involved with both parents.

If you're getting divorced, be sure you know all of your legal options as a parent.

Source: Encyclopedia, "Child Custody," accessed Jan. 19, 2018

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