Ask any child of divorced parents and he or she will stress the importance of spending as much time as possible with both mom and dad. In fact, some kids might even dream of their parents getting back together and living with them under the same roof.
The reality of relationships, however, means that two adults and their children may be better off when the adults live in separate houses. But what about the kids? Should they live with just one parent, or should they divide their time between each home equally?
Research shows that shared custody may be best
Some believe that, when kids live half the time in one home and half the time in another, it can create an unstable environment for the child. However, new psychological research shows that children -- with the exception of kids who require protection from abuse or neglect -- do best with shared parenting. According to a professor of psychology from Wake Forest University, "Shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children."
Although the trend toward shared parenting is growing throughout the nation, statistics show that courts award full physical custody to mothers in over 80 percent of court-decided custody matters. Part of the reasons for courts to award full physical custody to only one parent is the fear that -- in contested custody cases -- the inability of parents to get along and reach mutual decisions could result in unnecessary stress for the kids involved. Judges often worry that children will be thrown into the middle of parental disagreements, forcing them to side with one parent or the other.
New research disproves that parental conflict will be overly damaging to children. In fact, research has also shown that sometimes parents create conflict, or exaggerate conflict, in their efforts to receive sole custody. Also, statistics show that post-divorce parental disagreements tend to settle down after several years of separation.
Is shared custody right for you and your kids?
Psychologists agree that children benefit from having regular, frequent and lengthy contact with both parents. In fact, they benefit so much that the potential downsides of living in two separate homes from week to week do not outweigh the benefits of shared custody. That said, shared custody will not be suitable for all family situations. Furthermore, since a child custody agreement will endure for many years to come, parents need to consider carefully what's best for themselves and their children.