Child custody is one of those areas of law that generally involves two separate components. Legal custody is an aspect of child custody that relates to who has the decision-making power concerning the child (or children). Physical custody is what people may think the most about—this aspect of child custody involves where the child will be. That is, physical custody involves the arrangement of when each parent will spend time with the child.

These concepts are not always dealt with separately—in many instances the two aspects are considered at the same time. Similarly, parents may share joint custody in one or both aspects of the custody issue. Notably, joint custody does not mean that the time in the physical custody arrangement will necessarily be a 50-50 proposition.

Child custody issues are typically considered in the best interests of the child. While each state has its own rules related to family law issues, a divorcing couple in Missouri probably only cares about the one state law.

Commentators on a national scale are suggesting that states should move more toward having family law prefer shared parenting. Some advocates feel that equal parenting time is better for kids as a general proposition. Lawmakers in some states have bandied about the idea, according to USA Today.

The idea of shared parenting is not completely different from the joint physical custody idea, in some respects.

The main difference is that the proposal would call for equal time in custody arrangements as the preferred rule, unless there is evidence of physical or substance abuse. Critics of the idea say that setting the default at a 50-50 shared custody expectation in family law could limit courts too much when considering the best interests of the child individual cases.

Notably, in the absence of allegations of physical abuse or similar issues, the best interest of the child standard does not prohibit shared custody. Divorcing parents may seek this type of arrangement when the balance of equities so indicate. But, not all situations may make shared custody practical. A Missouri family law attorney may discuss child custody issues with a parent who is seeking a divorce.

Source: USA Today, “Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome,” Jonathan Ellis, Jan. 27, 2014