A. In awarding the custody of a minor unmarried child or in appointing
a general guardian for said child, the court shall consider what
appears to be in the best interests of the physical and mental and
moral welfare of the child.
B. The court, pursuant to the provisions of subsection A of this
section, may grant the care, custody, and control of a child to either
parent or to the parents jointly.
For the purposes of this section, the terms joint custody and joint
care, custody, and control mean the sharing by parents in all or some
of the aspects of physical and legal care, custody, and control of
C. If either or both parents have requested joint custody, said
parents shall file with the court their plans for the exercise of
joint care, custody, and control of their child. The parents of the
child may submit a plan jointly, or either parent or both parents may
submit separate plans. Any plan shall include but is not limited to
provisions detailing the physical living arrangements for the child,
child support obligations, medical and dental care for the child,
school placement, and visitation rights. A plan shall be accompanied
by an affidavit signed by each parent stating that said parent agrees
to the plan and will abide by its terms. The plan and affidavit shall
be filed with the petition for a divorce or legal separation or after
said petition is filed.
D. The court shall issue a final plan for the exercise of joint care,
custody, and control of the child or children, based upon the plan
submitted by the parents, separate or jointly, with appropriate
changes deemed by the court to be in the best interests of the child.
The court also may reject a request for joint custody and proceed as
if the request for joint custody had not been made.
E. The parents having joint custody of the child may modify the terms
of the plan for joint care, custody, and control. The modification to
the plan shall be filed with the court and included with the plan. If
the court determines the modifications are in the best interests of
the child, the court shall approve the modifications.
F. The court also may modify the terms of the plan for joint care,
custody, and control upon the request of one parent. The court shall
not modify the plan unless the modifications are in the best interests
of the child.
G. 1. The court may terminate a joint custody decree upon the request
of one or both of the parents or whenever the court determines said
decree is not in the best interests of the child.
2. Upon termination of a joint custody decree, the court shall proceed
and issue a modified decree for the care, custody, and control of the
child as if no such joint custody decree had been made.
H. In the event of a dispute between the parents having joint custody
of a child as to the interpretation of a provision of said plan, the
court may appoint an arbitrator to resolve said dispute. The
arbitrator shall be a disinterested person knowledgeable in domestic
relations law and family counseling. The determination of the
arbitrator shall be final and binding on the parties to the
proceedings until further order of the court.
If a parent refuses to consent to arbitration, the court may terminate
the joint custody decree.