The most common child custody arrangement is an arrangement that is mutually agreed upon by the parents. If the parents cannot agree, then the only option left is a court-ordered custodial arrangement. In the case of marriages that have witnessed emotional or physical abuse, the courts may order supervised custody.
Before explaining these in detail, readers should know that there are two main types of child custody:
Physical custody: The child lives with the parent who is awarded physical custody. It can be sole, joint, or split.
Legal Custody: The parent who is awarded legal custody is allowed to make significant decisions on behalf of the child. This custody too can be sole or joint.
In general, the courts believe that wholesome emotional growth of the child requires the love and care of both the parents, and therefore joint or 50/50 physical and legal custody is awarded in most cases, unless there is a compelling reason to order sole or split custody.
A custodial arrangement depends on the circumstances surrounding the divorce case, and so the custodial arrangement is driven by each case’s unique circumstances. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. With that said, here are some well-known custodial arrangements.
1. A Mutually Agreed Upon Custodial Arrangement
Typically, most parents draw up a parenting plan based on time schedules that suit them, discuss it with their child custody attorneys, and then either communicate directly with each other or have their attorneys negotiate the terms of their plan. Once the plan is approved by both parents, the attorneys present it to the courts for approval. The courts then check if the plan is fair to both parents, and if it is, the approval is granted.
Parents who have agreed to a 50/50 custody arrangement can adopt one of the following template custody plans, and add customized schedules for holidays, vacations, and special occasions:
The 2-2-3 Custodial Plan
In the 2-2-3 schedule, the child lives with one parent for 2 days/week, then goes to live with the other parent for the next 2 days, and returns to the first parent for the remainder of the week (3 days). The schedule switches every week. Some parents may make some changes in the 2-2-3 plan based on their convenience.
The 2-2-3 plan can inconvenience the child and disrupt his/her routine because he/she has to shuttle between two homes every two or three days and all the travel involved may take a toll on his/her school life and extracurricular activities. But it may not be a big inconvenience if the parents are staying very close to each other.
The 2-2-5-5 Custodial Plan
In the 2-2-5-5 schedule, the child lives with one parent for 2 days, then spends 2 days with the other parent, and this is followed by spending 5 days with the first parent, then 5 days with the other parent. This plan too can disrupt the child’s routine and inconvenience him/her due to frequent shuttling between two homes.
Customized Variations Of The Custodial Plans
The 2-2-3 and the 2-2-5-5 custodial plans were just two examples to illustrate how custody timings can be scheduled. Parents can jointly create their custodial plans according to their time schedules and convenience.
2. A Court-Ordered Custodial Arrangement
If the parents cannot agree on a custodial arrangement, the courts decide on one based on the child’s best interests. Here is an example from Utah:
According to Utah Code Section 30-3-35, the minimum custody time (for a 5–18 years-old child) that a noncustodial parent is entitled to, is:
(a) One weekday evening (5.30 P.M. to 8.30 P.M.) specified by the custodial parent or the courts. If it is not specified, then Wednesday evening is chosen by default.
(b) One entire weekday specified by the noncustodial parent or the courts. If the child’s school is in session, the weekday begins at the time the school closes and ends at 8.30 P.M. If the school is not in session, then the weekday usually begins at 9 A.M. and ends at 8.30 P.M.
(c) Custody time on alternating weekends starting at 6 P.M. on Friday and ending at 7 P.M. on Sunday. If the noncustodial parent chooses, he/she can get the alternating-week custody of the child starting from the time the school is dismissed on Friday up to Sunday 7 P.M. If the school is not in session, the noncustodial parent can choose to get custody between 9 A.M. on Friday and 7 P.M. on Sunday.
(d) Holidays and extended time during the school summer break are also specified in the court-ordered schedule.
Both parents are required to follow this court-ordered schedule but may cooperate and communicate with each other to balance out custodial/visitation inconveniences, if any arise.
3. Supervised Visitation
The courts may order supervised visitation if they find that there was physical, emotional, or sexual, abuse of the child or the custodial parent by the other parent during the marriage, the noncustodial parent is a substance abuser, is mentally ill, or somehow can pose a danger to the child. Such visitations keep the child and the other parent safe, but these types of supervised arrangements usually don’t last very long.
To answer the question, the most common custody arrangement is the one that is drawn up by both parents in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation. The custodial plan can differ for every family as the circumstances that lead to divorce are unique.