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Benefits of joint child custody

When married couples with children divorce, one of the most difficult factors to consider is what will happen with their children. After all, the children are the ones who are often the most confused, saddened and angry about the separation. In a home where both parents loved and provided for the children, the emotional tax can be even stronger. As couples find the need to dissolve their marriages, they would do well to consider child custody arrangements that benefit everyone, especially their children.

In the past, most experts considered it detrimental to have children shuffle back and forth between households. Today, the evidence is clear that joint custody is far preferable to the alternative. A study conducted in 2014 and published online in early 2015 concluded that children of divorced parents do much better emotionally, physically and academically when each parent plays an active role in their lives. Children who spend time with both parents after a divorce had fewer psychosomatic issues than children who rarely or never saw their other parent.

A Swedish study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, surveyed almost 150,000 children in the age group of 12 to 15 years. The results indicated that children who lived only with one parent exhibited more problems socially, emotionally and academically relative to those who shared time equally with their parents. Researchers said this indicated the importance of children keeping a strong relationship with both parents after a divorce. The alternative is children losing an important relationship in their lives, which can cause stress-related health issues, social problems and difficulty concentrating.

In some cases, joint custody is not an option. Abusive parents or those who have been incarcerated or abandoned their family are certainly exceptions. However, households where both parents had strong relationships with their children prior to the divorce, it is much better for everyone involved to maintain as much of that original relationship as possible.

Of all the issues couples face in a divorce, decisions regarding their children are often the most demanding and challenging. Ask any parent and he or she will most likely say that they want to do what is best for the children. In light of this new research, parents would do well to keep joint child custody in mind as they seek to dissolve their marriage.

Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, "Fifty moves a year: is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?," Malin Bergström, et al., April 28, 2015

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