Split or Joint Residential Custody

A growing trend in New York is split or joint residential custody of children.  This is an arrangement in which the child or children spend equal time, or roughly equal time, with both parents.  This is done through something as boldly simple as a schedule that alternates the children with each parent for one week at a time.  Other joint or split schedules split time over a two week or four week period with the children dividing their time equally over the duration of the larger period with shorter alternating periods with the parents.  This can include 4-3-3-4 and other arrangements.

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These arrangements require both parents to have the ability to parent their children for prolonged periods, get them to and from school, help with home work, do laundry and manage their own job.  With two working parents, split or joint residential custody may work because neither parent can do it all on their own.  In this regard, split or joint residential custody is a positive change that recognizes the changing structures and realities of American families.

The problem with split or joint residential custody is when one parent, who would be the non-custodial parent, wants to have such an arrangement as a pretext to reduce their child support obligation.  This happens often.  However, the reality of the situation is that split or joint residential custody does not preclude child support and will not exonerate a parent with split or joint residential custody from having to pay child support.  So a working dad, who wants split or joint residential custody with homemaker mom, may not be too successful in his plan to avoid paying child support.  Also, the reality of custody litigation still favors the primary caregiver.

Split or joint residential custody opens a whole litany of child support considerations.  However, the simple rule to remember is that in New York when there is split or joint residential custody, the parent who earns more money will be deemed the non-custodial parent for child support purposes.  A court must calculate child support according to the Child Support Standards Act and they have the ability to deviate from the presumptive amount of child support based upon the split or joint residential custody arrangement.  This is a complex area of law that generally requires the skill of an experienced domestic relations attorney.

Another problem with split or joint residential custody is that sometimes these schedules look good on paper, while in reality they require too many transitions for the children.  Kids can get confused as to where they are supposed to be during the week or confused as to which bus they are to take after school because they lose track of which parent they are supposed to be with.  As kids get older, this becomes less of an issue, but more issues arise with extracurricular activities.

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