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Is shared or single child custody better for kids’ well-being?

When couples split up, the issue of where children will live and when they will see each parent can be particularly contentious. What can make this issue even more challenging in some Massachusetts separations and divorces are the conflicting beliefs people may have about child custody. Some people believe that shared custody is best for children, while others adhere to the notion that one parent having sole or majority custody provides more consistency. But, what does the research say?

According to a study from Wake Forest University, shared custody can be lead to better outcomes for children. Even in situations where there is a difficult co-parenting relationship, the study found that children who lived with each parent at least 35 percent of the time tended to do better academically, emotionally, behaviorally and in terms of physical health. Researchers say the results suggest that strong parent-child bonds are important factors in a child’s future development and outcomes.

Further research suggests that time spent overnight at both parents’ homes, rather than just daytime visits or activities, encourages a stronger parental bond. This aligns with the fact most families today split time evenly even with very young children; on average, fathers in dual-earning households account for about 41 percent of the time parents spend with infants. Research suggests that it is often healthy to maintain this shared parenting pattern, including overnight stays, even after a split.

Every family is different, and in some cases shared child custody is not the best solution. However, where it is possible, the conclusion of the Wake Forest University research and dozens of other studies on joint custody indicates that strong relationships with both parents can be healthy for children. Those who have questions about how to work out a child custody plan, or what their rights are in relation to children in a breakup, should reach out to a Massachusetts lawyer.


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