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Split custody, also known as divided custody, is an arrangement in which siblings are separated and sole custody is divided between the two parents. In these situations, one parent has sole custody over one or more children while the other has sole custody of the remaining siblings. The children can live permanently with one parent or alternate living between both parents. Sometimes, it is the child that makes a request to the court for split custody.

Split custody is considered rare in the United States since the court usually prefers to keep siblings under the same roof. However, this arrangement may be approved if children are abusive with each other, a child has severe mental or physical health problems, or if it is impossible to parent the children together for whatever reason. The court will first consider the best interests of the children while determining whether or not to grant split custody. 

Key Takeaways

  • Split custody also called divided custody, refers to the arrangement that involves multiple children and sole custody divided between both parents. 
  • The court does not typically rule in favor of split custody given that separating siblings is not usually ideal, but it can be granted if the court deems it necessary.
  • This arrangement may be discussed if the children are abusive towards each other, if one child has special needs, or if the child is adamant that he or she belongs with a particular parent.

When to Consider Split Custody

Even if both parents are interested in split custody, they must still prove to the court that it is the best arrangement for all parties involved. A judge may decide that split custody is appropriate in a variety of instances:

  1. If the children have a very poor relationship and are actively aggressive or threatening towards one another.
  2. One of the children has special needs or serious mental/physical health problems, and one parent is better equipped to care for that child than the other. 
  3. The child is a teenager that has filed for the request and he or she has a strong opinion about why split custody is the correct arrangement.
  4. The child could have better opportunities with one parent if the parent lives in an area with better educational opportunities.
  5. A child has behavior issues and it is proven that he or she behaves better with one of the parents.

Problems with Split Custody

The court must find one of the issues above to be relatively extreme in order to award split custody to the parents. This is due to the fact that divorce can be difficult for children to process. It is natural for siblings to turn to each other for support during these times, and they may feel isolated if they are separated from their brothers or sisters. When appropriate and in cases of aggression between siblings, parents should encourage their children to resolve their problems between themselves without separating them from each other. However, in situations where this is impossible or unsafe, split custody may be necessary.

Bottom Line

Even if all parties involved believe it is the right choice, split custody can take an emotional toll on both the parents and children. It is crucial to work alongside an experienced family law attorney to develop a proper parenting plan that will suit the best interests of your children while advocating for the parent’s concerns. Your attorney can also provide helpful insight into how split custody can affect your family.

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