There are some strong opinions among family law and child-rearing professionals around split custody (also known as divided custody). However, for some post-divorce family challenges, it might be the best solution – at least for a time.
Split custody involves one child (or sometimes more) living with one parent and at least one child living with the other. In some cases, the siblings are never living together in one home. They may remain with their custodial parent throughout the year, or they may “switch” homes at some point(s) during the year. The siblings may or may not spend time together under one roof.
This type of custody is frowned upon by some experts because it separates siblings. However, there are some situations where it’s simply not healthy for them to live together. For example, if sibling rivalry has become intense – to the point where there’s physical or emotional abuse, it may be necessary for the parents to divide custody of their kids. They should also seek family therapy to help resolve the issues.
Sometimes, parents choose a split custody arrangement because a child has special needs that one parent is better able to meet. Perhaps a child needs equipment that can’t be moved between homes or is too expensive to purchase in duplicate. Maybe they go to a particular school or need regular therapy or medical treatment that is closer to one parent’s home than the other’s
A child may go to a school for kids with special talents, such as a performing arts school, that is closer to one parent. They may be training to be a competitive swimmer, gymnast or ice skater and need access to facilities that aren’t convenient to one parent’s home.
In some cases, particularly as kids get into the teen years, they may decide they want to live with one parent. A teenage girl may decide she needs her mom full-time. Another teenage girl may be constantly fighting with her mother to the point where it’s better for everyone if she lives with her dad for a while. Of course, kids – even teens – shouldn’t dictate their custody terms. However, it may be worth considering their wishes if they’re valid.
Whatever the situation, if you’re thinking about split custody, talk with your family law attorney about your family’s unique circumstances. They can offer valuable insight and guidance.