Don Sinkov of explains the different types of custody options.Part of the parenting plan I assist clients in creating is a posted calendar in each of their homes so the children can see when, where, and with whom they will be on any given day. The calendar is based on the Agreement of time sharing between the parents and is consistent with the form of custody they have chosen.

Have you seen the commercial where he asks, “how do you know it’s true?” and she says “I read it on the internet”?  Reading on the internet, or even better asking well-meaning friends, about child custody sometimes leads to some pretty strange answers. Here is the real lowdown on the different forms of custody:

Sole Custody:

With sole custody, the child resides with one of you. That parent has physical custody. As the custodial parent, you make independent decisions for the child without consulting with the other parent. The non-custodial parent has access/visitation/time sharing with the child.

The non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.

Joint Custody:

Joint custody is where the child primarily lives with one parent. That parent has physical custody. The other (non-custodial) parent has access/visitation/time sharing with the child. Decision making regarding the child, however, is shared by both parents. You consult with each other and come to an agreement about major life decisions for the child.

Most courts would prefer joint custody to mean that you consult with each other, but one of you has the final decision making authority in all matters.

The non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent.

Shared Custody:

When custody is shared, the child resides with each of you 50% of the time. Usually one parent is the physical custodian, although parents are sometimes loathe to give up physical custody. They often feel when allowing the other parent to have physical custody, they are giving up their child.

Decision making is shared and by definition, time sharing is equal.

Most often, child support is calculated for both parents. The larger wage earner pays to the smaller wage earner the calculated difference. This gives the smaller wage earner economic assistance in providing for the child.

Be aware that child support in shared custody is less than child support in joint custody. Let’s hope this is all about sharing equal time and not just trying to lower child support payments.

Split custody:

In split custody, each parent takes one child. Sometimes when parents have two children, they will grimace when I say that. OK, not just sometimes. Almost always. Occasionally  parents are very much in favor of it because they have a particular connection with one child.

When electing split custody, are parents thinking about life from their perspective or their child’s perspective? What is in the best interest of the children? Is it separating them from their brother or sister, or remaining with their brother or sister?

In split custody, each parent pays child support for the child with them. If there is a disparity of income, one parent might make an additional payment to the other to try to equalize the ability to support the child.


Nesting is where the child stays put and the parents move around. The child stays in the same house, in their same room, going to their same school, surrounded by their friends. The parents get one or two apartments and share time in the home with the child. A week on, a week off. A month on, a month off. There are different combinations. Some cases of nesting are successful; but it is expensive maintaining the multiple dwellings.

In nesting cases, child support is generally based on the ability of each parent to pay.

I hope these descriptions are helpful to you and if you completely understand them and their nuances, call me and I will hire you on the spot. For the rest of us, call for a free consultation and I’ll try to help you through this.


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About Don Sinkov

Don Sinkov Your Divorce Mediator Westchester County, NY Putnam County, NY Phone: (914) 588-6258 eMail: