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Split Custody Laws: The Basics



Many states have split custody laws. Split custody, also known as divided custody or rotating custody, divides the family between the two parents. For example, if a couple have two children, one child lives with the father and one child lives with the mother. It is the least common type of child custody.

In split custody, each parent has physical custody of at least one child at all time. In some cases, the children live permanently with each parent. In others, the children rotate living with each parent in equal amounts.

Split custody is different from joint custody.

In joint custody arrangements:

  • Both parents have full-time responsibility for the care of their children
  • Each parent shares legal custody of their children
  • Each parent shares physical custody of their children

The Basics of Split Custody Laws

In split custody arrangements:

  • Each parent may still share legal custody of their children
  • Each parent has the physical custody of at least one of their children

Split custody may only be used in certain situations.

  • It must be allowed by your state's laws
  • You must have two or more children who are the legal children of both parents
  • You and your spouse must agree on the custody
  • You must show the court that split custody is the best way to serve the interests of your children

How Do You Get Split Custody?

In most states, there is a presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the children. The court will find that joint custody is the right type of custody unless it has a reason to decide differently.

The court will look at a number of factors before it will allow a split custody arrangement. In some states, these are listed in the split custody laws. In others, the court will use the "best interests of the child" standard to see if it is right for the children.

You or your attorneys suggest split custody to the court by filing a request called a petition. The court may not approve the arrangement even if both parents agree with the arrangement.

What Is a Split Custody Calculator?

A split custody calculator is an online or paper form used to estimate the amount of support each parent will have to provide for his or her children. You and your spouse will need to list your income and expenses on the form. The calculator figures your support based on the split custody laws of your state.

The calculator results are not binding until they are approved by a court.

Make certain that your state's calculator can be used for split custody. Your split custody arrangements may have unique terms and responsibilities. Many states have child support calculators, but not all can be used for split custody.