Some California parents who are going through a divorce might want to consider shared physical custody. While mothers are awarded custody in over 80 percent of cases, studies increasingly support the idea that the most beneficial arrangement for children is one in which children spend roughly equal time with both parents. The exception is cases in which a child must be protected from parental abuse or neglect.
The conventional wisdom regarding shared custody has been that it could place children in a position in which they are caught in the middle between parents’ conflicts. It has generally been believed that having the children live with the mother for stability and get only visitation with the father is the best solution.
However, studies do not support this. First, there is evidence that the conflict between divorced parents tapers off after a few years. Second, studies show that the quality of the relationship the child has with each parent and not the quality of the parents’ relationship with one another is the important factor in how well a child adjusts after a divorce. Although experts generally agree that children should be protected from conflict when possible, one study found even poor co-parenting did not appear to significantly affect a child’s well-being. Several states have passed laws in support of shared custody including Alaska, Arizona, Utah, Kentucky and Missouri.
Parents who are interested in shared custody might want to consider mediation. There may be several advantages to the mediation process including an outcome that is faster and less expensive. Couples will also have control over the final agreement. Mediation may also help parents create a parenting agreement that is useful in shared custody situations. This agreement may address a number of issues ranging from bedtimes and homework to how much time is spent playing video games.