Difference Between Shared and Joint Custody

For parents facing a divorce In Ontario, the Attorney General family law information page outlines the following potential outcomes of your custody decision:


Joint Custody Both parents make major decisions about the children together
Shared Custody Children live with each parent at least 40 percent of the time. In these circumstances, special provisions apply to the calculation of child support, depending on the number of time children spend with each parent
Sole Custody One parent makes all major decisions about the children


“Children’s living arrangements can vary greatly. In some cases, children maintain a primary residence with one parent and visit regularly with the other. In others, the children divide their time equally or approximately equally between the parents’ homes.” Source: Ontario Family Law


The focus of the court decision hinges on what’s best for your children. You’ll want to prepare yourself ahead of time so you will know how to respond in sticky family situations that will arise as a result of your court-assigned custody agreement.


While separated, you may have already arranged a situation that works for you. As you move forward with a divorce, you’ll want to plan for the new arrangements of your custody case.

When Joint Custody is Awarded


Joint custody outlines the division of child-rearing responsibilities, where each parent has agreed on duties and tasks.


Joint custody does not focus on arranging an equal amount of time with each parent. They’ll often outline an alternating schedule for children to spend time with each of their parents. One parent might have greater physical custody of the children or more parenting responsibilities than the other.


Joint custody may be the best outcome if one parent is in a better position to care for the child so that the children have the “best of both parents” – primary care from one parent while enjoying a consistent schedule of interaction with the other parent.

When Shared Custody is Awarded


Shared custody is a type of custody arrangement where children live with each parent at least 40 percent of their time. It’s more active and involved for both parents, and will require you to have frequent, open communication with your ex-spouse about the care of your children.


Since geographic proximity is required to make a shared custody agreement work for both parents and the children involved, it is not appropriate or available in every situation.


When Sole Custody is Awarded


Sole custody is only awarded in cases where there is a history of abuse and/or limited or hostile communication between parties, proven in court. Sole custody is not easily awarded and is not impacted by a parent’s allegation that communication is hostile or that the other parent is uncooperative, so courts will more often assign Joint Custody to ensure neither parent is alienated or limited from their parenting duties.


Divorce is often a time when once-collaborative partners can disagree and seem to use every situation as an opportunity to exert control and manipulation over their ex – how you choose to respond can negatively impact your outcome. To prepare and empower yourself for these future situations, you might want to consult your local library for resources.


Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an Uncooperative Ex- A Hands-on, Practical Guide to Communicating with a Difficult Ex-Spouse is a highly recommended book available at Amazon.


“Joint Custody with a Jerk offers many proven communication techniques that help you deal with your difficult ex-husband or ex-wife. By outlining common problems and teaching tools to examine your own role in these sticky situations, this book conveys strategies for effective mediation that are easy to apply, sensible, timely and innovative.” The book’s authors address how today’s digital forms of communication and smartphones in families, can both hurt and help in custody conflicts, and offers information and strategies for updating for today’s connected family.


Ultimately, the best advice you can get for your individual situation is from a qualified child custody lawyer in your area (like a Newmarket divorce lawyer). They can advise you on current family court laws applicable in your region and your best approach to getting the custody arrangement that will work best for you and your children.

Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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