Split custody

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Split custody refers to a child custody arrangement in which one parent has sole custody of one or more children while the other parent has sole custody of the remaining siblings. Split custody is rare, as it is thought that it is in the best to keep siblings together for mutual comfort, stability and support. Reasons for split custody can be child preferences for different parents or siblings that do not get along with each other. It is more common for older compared to younger siblings, and then usually at the request of one of the children.[1][2][3][4][5]

Split custody is different from shared custody, where all children live approximately equal time with each parent in a shared parenting arrangement.


One criticism of split custody is the same as for sole custody, in that the children only have one primary parent, which has been shown to cause worse physical, mental and social outcomes versus shared parenting.[6][7][8][9]

Compared to sole custody, split custody has been criticized for separating siblings and limiting the amount of comfort, support and stability that they can give to each other. For example, older siblings often help younger ones understand what’s going on or even shield them from some of the less-than-pleasant realities.[5]

Other forms of custody[edit]

  • Alternating custody is an arrangement whereby the child/children live for an extended period of time with one parent, and then for a similar amount of time with the other parent. While the child/children are with the parent, that parent retains sole authority over the child/children.
  • Bird's nest custody is an arrangement whereby the parents go back and forth from a residence in which the child/children reside, placing the burden of upheaval and movement on the parents rather than the child/children.
  • Joint physical custody is an arrangement whereby both parents have legal custody and/or both parents have physical custody.
  • Sole custody is an arrangement whereby only one parent has physical and legal custody of a child.
  • Third-party custody is an arrangement whereby the children do not remain with either biological parent, and are placed under the custody of a third person.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Split Custody Definition, Duhaime's Law Dictionary
  2. ^ Webster Watnik (April 2003). Child Custody Made Simple: Understanding the Laws of Child Custody and Child Support. Single Parent Press. pp. 16–38. ISBN 978-0-9649404-3-7. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  3. ^ Split Custody, FindLaw Legal Dictionary
  4. ^ Child Custody in Canada, Divorce-Canada.ca
  5. ^ a b Split Custody: Why Courts Rarely Separate Siblings In Divorce, Goldberg Jones.
  6. ^ Linda Nielsen (2018). "Joint Versus Sole Physical Custody: Children's Outcomes Independent of Parent–Child Relationships, Income, and Conflict in 60 Studies". Journal of Divorce & Remarriage. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage. 59 (4): 247–281. doi:10.1080/10502556.2018.1454204.
  7. ^ Lisa Nielsen (June 20, 2017). "10 Surprising Findings on Shared Parenting After Divorce or Separation". Institute for Family Studies.
  8. ^ Lerche Davis, Jeanie. "Joint Custody Best for Most Children". WebMD Health News. WebMD, Inc. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  9. ^ Peterson, Karen S. (24 March 2002). "Joint Custody Best for Kids After Divorce". USATODAY.com. Retrieved 27 September 2011.