What is Joint Physical Custody?
A divorced mother explains how this equal arrangement works for their family.
By Natasha Marais
Article originally in Parent24
When my partner and I of eight years split
up, he suggested joint physical custody of our 7-year-old son, Noah. The
concept was so foreign to me that I had to Google it. Joint (or shared)
is when a child spends equal amounts of time with each parent. For example,
living with one parent for one week and then with the other parent the
There is nothing easy about discussing who
your child will live with when family as he knows it is about to come to an
end. My own parents were divorced when I was six years old and my mother had
sole custody of my sister and me. It seemed obvious to me that Noah would live
with me. He could stay at his Dad’s every second weekend, maybe also one night
a week, and we would share holidays.
But conversations with Noah’s father made
me realise that this was not necessarily what was best for Noah, or what was
fair to him as his father. He wanted to have an active presence in his son’s
life. Whatever differences he and I may have had, he has always been a great
father and his son means more to him than anything in the world. It was with
this knowledge, and hours of Googling the pros and cons of shared physical
custody that I sat down to really think about what would be best for Noah.
Noah, wise beyond his years, is a
sensitive, affectionate, loving and kind soul. It’s me that he calls out to
when he has a bad dream. It’s me that he comes to when he wakes up in the
morning. It’s my face he sees before he closes his eyes at night.
But he is growing, quickly. He is tall, sporty, loves games, stories, being in
the water, and his cat. And he worships his father. He tears through the house
to run into his father’s arms when he gets home at night. They are always
laughing together. They are always scheming together. Together, they are boys.
I could no longer claim that it was largely me that
Noah needed. He needed us both, equally.
Our arrangement is such that Noah spends
one week with me and then one week with his father. When Noah is with me, his
father comes to our home on Wednesdays for dinner and I go there when Noah is
at his Dad’s. We try to make sure that he follows a similar routine in both his
Obviously this option is not always viable.
If you’re going to be living in different towns, for instance, it won’t really
work. Also, to be honest, if Noah was a couple of years younger I’m not sure I
would have been very keen on this idea. The circumstances surrounding the
break-up or divorce would also be a factor. Too often, children are used in
situations like this. As parents, it is our responsibility to put our children
The fact that we are no longer together
continues to be painful for both me and my ex, albeit at different times.
However, no matter what challenges our own relationship continues to face in
light of all the changes we are still adjusting to, we are first, and foremost,
In our case we have made this arrangement
as part of a settlement agreement that was drawn up by a lawyer in order to
dissolve our partnership in terms of property, debts and assets. It is our
intention to re-evaluate this arrangement regularly to make sure that Noah is
adjusting. I think that because we have, so far, managed to put Noah first and
because we nurture Noah’s relationship with each other, Noah is adjusting
incredibly well. I am so grateful for this. For this man that is still the
father in Noah’s life and still the friend in mine. Our family is a little
different now but we’ll always be a family.
you share your child?