PM 03-05-03-a: Joint Custody

WAG 03-05-03-a

When a child lives alternately with each parent in a "joint custody" situation, the local office must establish who the child lives with for receipt of assistance. The other parent is absent. Base the decision on a review of the facts that show which parent actually exercises the most care and control of the child:

  • If only one parent is exercising care and control of a child, the child "lives with" the parent who provides care and control.
  • If both parents exercise some care and control, but one parent exercises more than the other, the parent exercising the most is the one the child is living with.
  • If both parents exercise care and control equally, then the parents must decide who the child "lives with" for receipt of assistance.

When a child spends summer vacations or other periods of time greater than 30 days with the other parent, the child is "living with" the other parent during that time.

Joint Custody - Figuring Out Where the Child Lives

Use the following factors when figuring out who the child "lives with" when a child is in joint custody.

  1. Does the custody order state that one of the parents has primary responsibility for parenting the child? Some orders use the term "joint custody", but have specific conditions making one of the parents the custodial parent.
  2. Are the terms of the custody order being followed? If not, what is actually going on with the child's care and control? Where does the child live? Who supervises the child? Who is actually parenting the child? Base the child's eligibility on facts, not just the court order. Accept the customer's statement unless there are facts to the contrary.
  3. Does one parent have to pay child support? An order requiring a parent to pay child support may be an indicator that the parent is absent. This is true even if the order refers to "joint custody".
  4. Does the child live a majority of the time with one parent?
  5. Are the child's clothes and personal items kept in the home of one parent or in the homes of both parents?
  6. Which parent takes responsibility as the contact for the child's school?
  7. Does only one parent arrange for the child's medical care?

When figuring out where the child is living, there may be other factors to consider besides the above items. Each case is unique and must be looked at by local office staff using all the relevant facts. The decision must be made by the local office based on all the available facts.

In general, items 1 through 4 are the most important and of about equal weight. But ignore item 1 if the terms of the order are not being followed. Items 5 through 7 and any other relevant facts may affect the decision in certain cases. These items are given as guidelines for making a decision, they are not criteria that must be met.

revised text Income

revised textWhen figuring out if a child in joint custody qualifies for cash benefits, use only the income of the parent that the child lives with. The absent parent does not have to sign the application or be included in the case. See PM 10-01-03 for figuring financial eligibility and the cash benefit amount.