When child custody is disputed, it usually comes down to three things: (a) the label, (b) the impact on child support, and (c) the actual schedule. If someone wants joint physical custody, it is because (a) they like the idea of telling other people they have “joint physical custody;” (b) they want to pay less child support, or (c) they actually want to have the children in their care about half the time. If someone wants sole physical custody, it is because (a) they like the ideal of telling other people they have “sole physical custody;” (b) they want to receive maximum child support, or (c) they actually want to have the children in their care most of the time. It can be surprising how often the dispute is NOT about the actual schedule.
Typically, the label matches the support calculation, which matches reality. But not always. If one parent is really hung up on the label, then there could be a “joint physical custody” arrangement in which the children spend most of the time with one parent, and the child support paid from one parent to the other is not reduced to reflect the “joint” arrangement. It is not uncommon in a joint physical custody arrangement (both by label and by actual schedule) for the higher earning parent to pay “non-reduced” child support to the lower earning parent (oftentime to obviate the need for spousal maintenance). It is important to note, though, that in almost all cases in which the label does not match the support calculation and/or the actual schedule, that discrepancy is a product of a negotiated agreement, and not a court decision. The typical court decision will make the label, the support calculation and the actual schedule all correspond. If one parent is hung up on the label or the support calculation, it is important to attempt to address that issue outside of court.