According to the American Psychology Association, children can adjust better to divorce when they are able to continue spending significant time with both parents. Children in joint physical custody arrangements typically have fewer behavioral problems, fewer emotional problems, higher self-esteem, and better school performance than children in sole-custody arrangements.
This finding seems to indicate joint physical custody is the preferable custody option for kids after divorce. However, the American Psychological Association claims the custody arrangement is not necessarily the cause of these results. Instead, the ongoing relationship with both parents is to blame.
What is joint physical custody?
Yet, for many families, joint custody can help ensure a child receives meaningful time with both parents. Joint physical custody involves both parents providing care for the child. Typically, it involves the child spending part of his or her time at one parent’s house and the rest of his or her time at the other parent’s house. Although the child spends significant time with both parents, the time is not necessarily an even split.
Although having two homes may seem scary for some children, there are some things parents can do to help their children feel more comfortable with the arrangement. The parent in the new home can invite the child to help decorate the space with a combination of new and familiar items. Parents can also help their children establish a packing plan for trips between homes, and routines can be established for departures and arrivals.
Visitation can still be meaningful time
Although joint physical custody is right for some families, there are situations when it may not be the best option. When one parent is awarded sole custody, the other parent is typically still awarded visitation.
If you have been awarded visitation, it can benefit your children if you try to make the most of the time you have together. Try to avoid being late or missing appointments, and try to avoid making negative comments about the visits or the other parent. Instead, try to find an activity you and your child are both interested in that you can bond over.
If you are a parent who has been awarded sole custody, you can help your child maintain a relationship with his or her other parent by making sure your child is prepared to attend the visits and arrives to them on time. You can also show your support for the relationship by not making negative comments about the other parent and allowing your child to share as much or as little information about the visit as he or she wants.
When child custody is determined, the child’s best interests should always be a key factor. Because children benefit from maintaining healthy relationships with both parents, joint child custody has become a popular option for many families. However, it is often still possible for a child to maintain meaningful relationships with both parents when sole custody is in the child’s best interests.