Shared parenting helps kids, even when parents don’t get along

A recent study says that shared parenting is best for kids, even when parents can’t get along.

Most parents who go through a divorce want to do everything possible to protect their children from the fallout of that divorce. Indeed, in child custody cases courts also strive to put the best interests of the children first and to seek a parenting arrangement that will best facilitate the children's emotional and psychological development. In the past, that has often meant awarding primary custody to just one parent, often the mother, in the belief that forcing children to divide their time equally between both parents' households would be too disruptive to their lives. Now, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, a new study shows that such beliefs, while well-meaning, may be misguided.

Sole custody not necessarily stable

Divorce can bring out the worst in people, and it is not uncommon for parents who are going through a divorce to bicker and argue. That sort of conflict is something that judges have long sought to protect children from, which is why even today in more than 80 percent of court-ordered child custody cases across the country, the mother is awarded sole physical custody.

While trying to protect children from their parents' fighting makes sense, it also ignores the damage that can be done when one parent is largely removed from a child's life. A recent study by Wake Forest University researchers looked at 44 studies on the impact divorce conflict has on children. The researchers concluded that conflict between parents actually had a very limited impact on children's well-being.

What mattered more than anything else, however, was the quality of the relationship between the child and each parent. So long as both the father-child and mother-child relationships were healthy and supportive, then that child had a much better chance of suffering from fewer emotional and behavioral problems.

Shared parenting laws in Arkansas

That study supports what advocates of shared parenting have long been saying: that, except in cases of abuse or neglect, children should be raised by both parents. In 2013, as USA Today reports, Arkansas passed a law that called on judges to award "approximate and reasonable equal division of time" in child custody cases. That law helped reverse decades of case law that saw most child custody cases decided in favor of just one parent.

Family law help

Divorce can be an incredibly painful experience, particularly for children. For parents who are going through a divorce and want to ensure that they remain a presence in their children's lives, it is important to reach out to a family law attorney for help. An experienced and dedicated attorney can help clients reach a solution that works in their family's interests.