50 50 custody has been shown to produce numerous benefits for the children of separated and divorced parents, but other custody schedules are often used. Why?
Here, I want to explain the pros and cons of 50/50 child custody. If you look at the advantages for children, such as being close to both parents, the arrangement is certainly attractive.
The disadvantages are fewer and often logistical, such as parents living too far from one another for frequent changeovers to be supported. Some of the supposed disadvantages are more myth than reality.
What 50 50 Custody Means
50 50 custody means that a child or children spend equal amounts of time under the care of each parent or guardian.
- Custody percentages are usually calculated using the number of nights spent with each parent (but can also be calculated in hours).
- 50/50 custody means children spend, on average, 182 to 183 nights with each parent per year.
50 50 custody means the parents share joint physical custody of a child – you don’t have one parent dominating care responsibilities. Almost always, the parents also share joint legal custody, meaning they must consult when making major decisions (such as choice of school).
Types of 50 50 Custody Schedules
The most well-known 50/50 custody schedule is week about. This is where a child spends exactly one week with each parent at a time. However, this timetable is only really best for older children when school is out for summer.
Another common schedule is the 3-2-2 fortnightly timetable.
- You have your children from Friday through to Monday morning.
- Then you have them again for overnights on Wednesday and Thursday.
- And you have them again for the Monday and Tuesday nights.
It’s an alternating weekend pattern with alternating 2-day blocks during the week.
For very young children, 50/50 custody requires lots of changeovers. Because the children need to keep seeing each parent frequently, they may be swapping homes every 1 or 2 nights.
Pros of 50 50 Custody
50/50 custody is the ultimate form of shared parenting. The two parents are treated as equals and fully share responsibilities for raising children. Here are the main pros of equal custody and other shared parenting plans.
1. Children have two involved parents
50 50 custody allows children to benefit as far as practical from having two parents. They can draw on the different strengths of their mother and father, including the resources and connections of both extended families. Humans have evolved having two parents, and 50 50 custody is the best way to keep that when parents live apart.
2. Parents get rest breaks
Parenting is a challenging and energy-sapping role at the best of times. Who wouldn’t want to get a break every now and then? With 50 50 custody, each parent is able to give their best because they have rest breaks between visits.
The fact that I constantly have to find childcare is probably more exhausting than the not sleeping. I have to find childcare just to get the time and space to recharge.Becky L McCoy
The benefits of sharing parenting duties are many. Not only do parents get rest breaks, but they can have a life beyond looking after children. That allows both parents to have hobbies and interests, maintain a bigger friendship group, build a career, and generally be better role models for their kids.
3. Double the household resources
Being a kid in a 50 50 custody arrangement has the advantage that you live across 2 households. That makes for an interesting and varied upbringing.
Anything that one household lacks, the other may provide. For example, one parent might live close to a park, and the other close to shops.
4. Improved living standards
Living across 2 households can generally improve a child’s living standards. For a start, both parents are more likely to work full-time.
Additionally, the child avoids living full-time in a low-income sole-parent household. Children are likely to spend more time with the higher-earning parent. Fathers generally earn more than mothers but often miss out with respect to custody.
Cons of Equal Custody
The main drawback to 50/50 equal custody is that it can be difficult logistically. You really need both parents to live near the school district, for example. Otherwise, spending equal time with one parent involves long school trips in the morning and/or afternoon.
People consider that shared parenting has children traveling all the time and being unsettled. But this is largely a myth. The best 50/50 custody schedules time changeovers so they happen during school. There is no extra travel involved. And with 50/50 custody, a child feels at home at both places where they live.
50/50 custody may be unsuitable for very young children who really need a home base. It is also unsuitable if parents live far apart.
But parents can always move closer as children get older. So, I believe just about every set of parents should consider agreeing on a 50/50 custody schedule or including provisions for it in their parenting plan.
Is 50 50 Good for Toddlers?
50/50 custody can work for toddlers, but there are potential problems compared to older children that should definitely be considered.
One issue is the logistical challenge of achieving equal custody while providing stability in the toddler’s routine. For babies and toddlers, a simple and predictable weekly schedule is often the best option. This helps the child understand what will happen each day.
Because there are an odd number of days in a week, a 4:3 schedule may be needed. For example, the mother may have the child overnight every Mon, Tue, Thu, and Sat, while the father takes care of Wed, Fri, and Sun. Although this is not a 50/50 schedule, it is close.
Another issue is that toddlers are more demanding than older children, making it potentially beneficial to allocate some extra time with one parent. For example, one parent may have a more stressful job, making it harder to spend equal time with a little one. Parents may also differ significantly in their ability to happily look after a toddler for long periods. Extra time can be allocated to one parent at least until a child reaches school age.