Joint custody can mean a couple of different things. One type of joint custody is joint legal custody. This means that the parents, or whoever is on the order of joint custody, must come to an agreement on all matters involving the health, education, and general welfare of the child. It doesn’t mean that the parents have to agree on every little decision they make regarding the child, but it does mean they have to agree on important decisions. It also doesn’t mean that, in an emergency, the parent who has the child can’t make a decision. But if there is time to consult the other parent, they should be consulted.
Another type of joint custody is joint physical custody. This means that the parents have roughly equal parenting time with the child. They may also have joint legal custody, but not necessarily.
A hybrid form of joint custody is joint legal with final decision making to one parent. This means that the parents have to try to come to an agreement on all important matters, but if they can’t, than one parent has the final say. This is often a settlement arrangement when one parent does not want to do straight joint custody.
Joint custody normally has to be agreed between the parties. A court will not usually order it if there is no agreement.