What Does Shared Parenting Really Mean?

by Jun 14, 2021Child Custody

Many parents coming into our office to discuss separation or divorce share some very common misconceptions about Shared Parenting. In this article, we’ll attempt to clear up some of the ones we hear most frequently.

Is Shared Parenting the same as Joint Custody?

While this may vary from region to region, Ohio does not recognize joint custody. There are basically two types of custody: Shared Parenting or Sole Custody.

Does Shared Parenting mean we each have the children 50% of the time?

In a word, no. The word “shared” might imply that there will be an equitable, 50-50 split of parenting time. But shared parenting is a form of custody, and actually has nothing to do with parenting time. Custody and parenting time are two separate and distinct issues that the court will decide individually.  

Will a Shared Parenting plan reduce or eliminate child support payments?

Child support is just as likely to be ordered under shared parenting as it is under sole custody. Typically, child support is tied to parenting time and income discrepancy, so a shared parenting plan will not automatically eliminate child support. Even with a 50-50 parenting time split, one parent will likely be paying child support.

If Shared Parenting doesn’t mean we are sharing time equally, what ARE we sharing?

A shared parenting plan means both parents have equal responsibility when it comes to making major decisions about things like school or church, paying for expenses such as extra-curricular sports, and the like. Parenting time, however, comes down to what is practical and in the best interest of the child. Very young children, for example, fare better when they spend longer periods of time with one parent. Teenagers, on the other hand, might be willing to hop back and forth if it helps to accommodate their social or work schedules. 

In reality, very few divorces end up with both parents having 50% of the parenting time. For example, children in school might function better if they have a “home base”, so a 60/40 split may be more practical. Generally speaking, a 50-50 time split only happens when both parents want it and the court agrees to it. Parenting plans are highly customizable and may include clauses like right of first refusal, final decision-making authority, non-traditional holidays or dates of importance, extracurricular participation, and other items that are important to your family.

Shared parenting works best when both parents agree on things like:

  • Parenting time arrangements
  • Finances
  • Medical care/physicians
  • Religion and church attendance
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Social events

What if my spouse and I don’t agree on those things?

If you don’t want to share the responsibility of decision-making with your spouse, then you may want to file for Sole Custody. The parent awarded sole custody becomes the primary decision maker for the child. You can choose the school or church they attend, the doctors they visit, the extracurricular activities in which they participate, and so on. 

Sole Custody is granted more frequently when:

  • One parent moves far away
  • One parent is deemed unfit
  • The parents don’t communicate well
  • Parents disagree on the fundamental issues of raising children, such as schooling, religion, healthcare, etc.

If I am awarded sole custody, do I get the kids all of the time?

No. As with Shared Parenting, the amount of time each parent spends with the children is determined separately from the issue of custody. The custodial parent will most likely have the children the majority of the time, but is not unheard of for a non-custodial parent to receive equal parenting time.My spouse and I can’t agree… can the court just create a shared parenting plan for us?

In Ohio, that’s not going to happen. Unlike some states, Ohio does not start with the presumption of shared parenting. Some individual courts may favor shared parenting over sole custody, but they do not have to start with that premise as the preferred outcome.

Whether both parents agree or not, you should be prepared to file a shared parenting plan of your own. The court cannot award shared parenting if a plan was not submitted and the case goes to trial. If you decide not to file for sole custody, it is extremely important that you submit a shared parenting of some type, even if you don’t consult your spouse.

My partner and I never married. Does that make a difference?

Not really. The biggest difference will be the type of court you appear in. Married couples filing for divorce will have their cases, including custody and parenting time, decided in a court of Domestic Relations. If there was no marriage, the case will go to Juvenile Court. 

How do I decide which type of custody to ask for?

We’ve only touched on a few of the most common misconceptions people have about parenting and divorce. It’s a complex topic, and young human lives will be impacted by the decisions you make. Child support and custody issues may be emotionally charged. The more you know about it, the easier it will be for you to move forward with confidence that you are making the right decisions. It’s important that you get expert advice in this area by talking to an experienced family law attorney. Schedule your free consultation today and let us help you through the process!