There are two ways in which the custody of a child is arranged between parents after a divorce. Either the parents agree to a shared custody, or a joint custody arrangement. The type of custody is determined at the time of divorce by the judge. The decision is taken based on the needs of the child and the kind of life that can be provided by each parent. There are some significant differences between shared custody and joint custody. In shared custody, both the parents get to spend equal time with the child, and the parents essentially work side-by-side to raise the child in a manner similar to how they would have been raised if the divorce had not taken place.
In joint custody, the parents are treated as separate entities rather than a single unit. This arrangement comes into effect if both parents live apart from each other. Parents share the decision-making responsibilities for the child in a joint legal custody while the physical responsibility of the child rests on the shoulders of whichever parent has the child in custody at the time. The needs of the child are the court's prime concern. Shared custody allows for equal bonding time for both parents. This can only happen if both the parents live near one another.
The parents can work together to provide a united, supportive front for the child. Both of them make joint decisions regarding the child's education, religious upbringing, health care concerns etc. A court-appointed mediator helps the parents work out the details of the parenting plan, including specifying where the child will spend the summer, holidays and weekends. The goal is to give both parents equal say in raising the child, instead of placing all the responsibility of child-rearing on a single parent. This happens when the court feels both parents are equally responsible and capable.
On the other hand, joint custody allows for the work of .raising the child to be divided as per a specific task. The physical custody of the child is assigned to one of the parents, after taking both the parent's living arrangements, working schedule and other factors into account. Joint custody arrangement offers an alternating schedule for both parents. This means one parent has a greater part of the parenting responsibilities than the other. Joint custody works best in situations where one parent is in a better position to take care of the child than the other. The child is kept with the parent who is able to provide better care while still allowing the child to interact with the other parent on a regular basis.