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What is split custody and when should you consider it?

It's not common, but some parents choose a "split custody" arrangement when they divorce. This is when each parent has sole physical custody of one or more of their children. Sometimes, divorced parents will switch an existing child custody arrangement to split custody because circumstances have changed that they believe warrant it.

The primary reason why most courts (and parents) don't favor split custody is that it's typically best for siblings not to be separated from one another. Parental divorce is hard enough without losing everyday contact with your brothers and sisters.

However, in some circumstances, split custody may be in the best interests of the children. Let's look at some examples:

  • Siblings have more than the usual sibling rivalry than can make it emotionally or even physically dangerous for them to live together. If this is he case, therapy is likely warranted in addition to splitting them up.
  • A child has behavioral issues that one parent is able to handle and the other isn't. Again, therapy may be warranted.
  • A child has some other type of special need that demands significant time and attention from a parent. Split custody may be the best way for the other child(ren) to get needed parental time and attention.
  • A child may be able to take advantage of opportunities if they live with one parent that they couldn't if they lived with the other one. Perhaps they're enrolled in a performing arts school that is close to one parent but not the other.

Whether you and your co-parent decide that a split custody arrangement is best, one of your children has requested it or a court has determined that split custody is best, it's essential to understand how it works. Drawing up a detailed custody agreement and parenting plan is key.

You'll probably want to ensure that your children get to spend time with each other and have time with both parents. As noted, family therapy may be necessary in some cases. Your family law attorney can help you craft an agreement that focuses on the children's best interests.

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