According to Maine Family Law, both parents are considered to be the "joint natural guardians of their minor children and are jointly entitled to the care, custody, control, services, and earnings of their children." Thus, the courts usually welcome joint custody after a divorce, unless it is determined to be harmful to the child.
The term "custody" implies parental rights and obligations regarding the care of their children, and both physical and legal custody of a child can be distinguished. Physical custody defines the child's primary physical residence, while legal custody refers to the parents' decision-making power. Each of these types can be awarded by the judge to one parent solely or both parents jointly. The spouses may create their arrangement and allocate parental rights and responsibilities independently, and the court is likely to approve this parenting plan if it meets the child's best interests.
Custody orders are typically quite flexible. When deciding the custody of a child and determining the best interests of the child in a particular divorce case, the court takes into account the individual conditions of each family. So, even if joint custody is awarded, it does not necessarily mean a 50/50 sharing of time (though the time spent with the child by each parent must be significant), and, in general, many different residential plans may be appropriate.