What is 2-2-5-5 Shared Custody?

January 26, 2012 | Blog, Child Custody, Divorce

Icon for author Brian Vertz Brian Vertz

There are many ways to describe a custody arrangement. The new Pennsylvania custody law, enacted in 2011, defines the terms we frequently use in describing custody:

  • “Legal custody.” The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.
  • “Partial physical custody.” The right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
  • “Physical custody.” The actual physical possession and control of a child.
  • “Primary physical custody.” The right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time.
  • “Shared legal custody.” The right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.
  • “Shared physical custody.” The right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child.
  • “Sole legal custody.” The right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child.
  • “Sole physical custody.” The right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.
  • “Supervised physical custody.” Custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.

Some parents ask me about “shared custody” of their children. What they mean varies from parent to parent. In the past, a custody arrangement was typically characterized by the children living with one parent during the workweek and spending weekends, vacations and holidays with the other parent. The law defined that arrangement as “primary physical custody” for the weekday parent, “partial custody” for the weekend parent, and usually, “shared legal custody” (the right to make major decisions concerning the child’s education, medical treatment, religious training, and other major issues). Some parents called that arrangement “shared custody” because both parents have physical custody from time to time. I call that a traditional custody arrangement. “Shared” can also refer to the right to participate in child-related decisions. Historically, the law referred to that right as “joint legal custody.” Now it is “shared legal custody.”

Over my twenty years in family law, I have witnessed a growing trend toward shared physical custody, meaning that the children spend part of every week with each parent. One form of “shared physical custody” is a 2-2-5-5 schedule. Using a calendar helps to understand this arrangement. For instance, the children might spend every Monday overnight and Tuesday overnight with Dad, every Wednesday overnight and Thursday overnight with Mom, and alternate weekends with each parent. Two days with Dad, two days with Mom, weekend with Dad, and then the beginning of the next week with Dad (5 days total); then two weekdays and the weekend with Mom (5 days total). This pattern repeats over and over throughout the year (except for holidays and vacations).

A 2-2-5-5 arrangement is favored by some parents because it creates a predictable routine for the kids. Kids will know where to be every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They only have to remember which parent’s weekend it is. This schedule also allows frequent contact with both parents. On the other hand, it does require more transitions than a “week-on, week-off” schedule.

No one can say for sure that 2-2-5-5 is better than week-on, week-off; or that shared physical custody is better than a traditional custody arrangement. That depends upon the best interests of the children and the specific circumstances of each family. But it helps to understand the terms.

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