There are two kinds of joint custody, legal and physical. Joint legal custody gives the non-residential parent the right to participate in major decisions about the children's upbringing and to view various records. In the traditional sole custody arrangement, the non-custodial parent has a right to a limited amount of contact with the child, and the requirement to pay child support, but is in many ways legally equivalent to a stranger. For example, a non-custodial parent cannot access his or her own child's medical records without the custodial parent's permission. Joint legal custody does not affect the child's living arrangements. Often it is granted with the traditional residence arrangement, in which the child lives with one parent but is permitted to visit the other parent four days per month.
With joint physical custody (also called shared parenting), the child lives with both parents, often on an alternating week basis. Joint physical custody is usually defined as a schedule where the child has at least a 30/70 time share between parents, although 50/50 arrangements are common (Ricci, 1981). Joint physical custody is almost always accompanied by joint legal custody.