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Pros and cons of joint custody

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What it means for child support

When parents separate or divorce, one of the more pressing issues is who their children should live with. While the traditional model has been for one parent to have primary custody, joint custody is becoming increasingly popular. The most important thing is that the interests of the children come first.

For a long time, it was common for children to live with one parent after their parents separated and for the other parent to have limited contact time with the child, e.g., every other weekend. However, this model dates back to the days when traditional family roles were still the norm. As society has changed, there has been a gradual shift towards joint custody arrangements that see the children splitting their time between living with their mother and living with their father, notes an expert in family law at MTR Legal Rechtsanwälte.

Different types of joint custody

When it comes to joint custody, it is important to make a distinction between the different types of arrangements. One option is for the parents to have separate homes and the children commute back and forth between them. For example, the children live alternately one week with the father and one week with the mother.

Alternatively, under the so-called “nest model”, the children are the ones with a permanent residence and it is the parents who commute. This arrangement sees the parents take turns living with the children in their home, i.e., at times the mother lives with the children in their own home, and other times it is the father who stays with them. One of the advantages of this model is that the children are constantly living in familiar surroundings. But this is also an expensive option, as the parents have to finance the children’s “nest” in addition to their own homes.

Children’s best interests paramount

Ideally, the parents will have agreed to joint custody, thus ensuring any stress on the children is kept to a minimum. However, it is also possible, according to Germany’s federal supreme court – the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), for joint custody to be mandated by a court order. The key factor is which contact arrangement is in the best interests of the children.

Any joint custody arrangement needs to provide the children with a stable and reliable environment that offers them the necessary continuity. Additionally, both parents should be able to support and accompany their children’s development.

It is also important to consider whether the children will (continue to) cope well with the constant change. After all, their welfare is the number one priority.

Impact on child support

If the requirements for joint custody are met, this will also have an impact on child support. Primary custody has been the default outcome in most cases under German family law to date. With joint custody, the children are cared for by both parents. This has implications for child support.

A distinction needs to be made here between genuine and non-genuine joint custody. In the case of arrangements that do not reflect real joint custody, responsibility for raising and caring for the children is predominantly assumed by one parent, the result of which is that the other parent, who assumes less responsibility for caring for the children, has to pay child support. However, his or her contribution towards the children’s care may be factored into their liability to pay.

True joint custody arrangements entail the parents making roughly equal contributions towards their children‘s care. In this scenario, both parents are liable in equal measure to pay child support. The extent of their liability is largely determined by the so-called “Düsseldorfer Tabelle”, which are guidelines recognized throughout Germany as an effective benchmark for child support claims.

MTR Legal Rechtsanwälte advises on many aspects of family law, including joint custody.

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