Legal Dictionary

split custody

Legal Definition of split custody


  1. A child custody decision which means that legal custody goes back and forth between parents like a ping-pong ball, as they, in turn, take care of the child. They are very rare (for example, only 5% of all custody orders in the USA) because they works against consistent upbringing decisions for the child. Also known as "divided custody" although the latter concept is mostly used to describe split custody over greater periods of time such as alternate years with each parent.

Definition of split custody

Further reading

Split custody refers to a custody arrangement in which the children are essentially split up, with some of the children living more with one parent, and some of the children living more with the other parent. Split custody is generally chosen because it creates a situation in which children do not have to constantly travel back and forth between their parent's homes and it creates a situation in which siblings that don't get along can be separated.


Split custody arrangements are criticized for a number of reasons. One such reason is that the siblings are separated from each other, which also has the negative aspect of eliminating the emotional support they give one another. Additionally, in this form of arrangement, this effect could be compounded by the fact that they have one primary parent, which has been shown to cause distress in children.

Other forms of custody

  • alternating custody - 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 - 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 custody - 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 - an arrangement in whereby the children do not remain with either biological parent, and are placed under the custody of a third person.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex situs
2.     lex causae
3.     lex loci delicti commissi
4.     lex loci celebrationis
5.     lex domicilii
6.     Clayton's Case
7.     AORO
8.     Miranda warning
9.     lex patriae
10.     defence of property