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Shared parenting may be best option for children after divorce

Many California couples who are considering ending their marriage wonder about how best to plan for their children after the divorce. Should one parent have physical custody with regular visitation by the other parent? How does a joint parenting plan work out for the children? Several recent studies, including one in California, appear to indicate that joint parenting plans work better than virtually all other options.

The general result of the studies is the conclusion that children and their fathers (fathers are more often the non-custodial parent) want and need more time together. The studies also concluded that children fare better post-divorce if both parents share responsibility for their care. Such an arrangement is now referred to as "shared parenting."

Over the last several decades, divorce decrees tended to allot regular visitation times to the non-custodial parent, who was usually the father. These provisions tended to convert the father into a kind of uncle. Psychiatrists now have more than 50 studies of various parenting arrangements that uniformly show that children who spend at least 35 percent of their time with each parent do better in almost every aspect of their lives. The children have better relationships with both parents, regardless of who has physical custody. In addition, these children do better academically, socially and psychologically. They get better grades, are less likely to smoke, abuse alcohol and drugs and are less susceptible to anxiety and depression.

Every divorce is different, and one single size will not fit all. Determining the best child custody arrangement must take into account the unique aspects of the children's lives and how they mesh with the lives of their divorced parents. An family lawyer may be able to offer advice on the various kinds of child custody arrangements, and which one is likely to be most successful for both parents and children.

Source: STAT, "After divorce, shared parenting is best for children's health and development," Richard A. Warshak, May 26, 2017

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