Image Courtesy of viralpiranha.com
Parenting is not easy under the best of circumstances and when there are other pressures involved, such as a divorce, parenting is even more complicated. Divorce can be a critical event in your life but it can be a catastrophic event in your children's lives and therefore, it is crucial to try to get it right the first time. When parents split up, the tendency is to go with joint custody as a means of mitigating the damage to your children. Especially in cases, where there are no threats to the children such as abuse. However, recent research has shown that this could have an adverse effect on the mental wellbeing of children.
Before going into the exact concerns with joint custody, what custody is must be understood. Importantly, not every state calls it “joint custody”. Some states refer to it as Joint Conservatorship; others call it, Joint Parenting and or a host of other terminology. However, it is in effect all the same. Both parents share responsibility for the child or children and depending on the terms of the agreement as approved by a court, share in the parenting of the child or children.
Where Did We Go Wrong?
Over the last several decades, there has been a trend to attempt to maintain joint responsibility among the parental units with the goal that it is better for the child. The primary exceptions have been in cases of abuse or threat to the child or one of the parents has been deemed unfit. However, newer research has focused on the role of the specific parental relationship with a child and how this promotes and encourages the well-being of the child. Inside this research, it has been discovered that in cases of an acrimonious divorce, the child is caught in the middle of two parents with different competing agendas and lives thereby diminishing the relationship with one or more of the parents. Dr. Robert Emery, a contributor to Psychology Today calls joint physical custody, “The best and worst arrangement for children”.
Image Courtesy of squarespace.com
While it might seem obvious to some that two parents in a negative divorce situation might put the children in the middle of their problems, the research has shown that even minor conflicts between the parents can create a negative impact on the children. The focus should be more on fostering a healthy relationship with the child instead of attempting to manage both the time and the responsibility of the child or children.
Not All Bad
Not all joint custody arrangements will have a negative impact. Even in a recent New York Times article discussing the research, it was noted that in some divorces, joint custody arrangements are actually good for the child. However, in these situations the divorce is amicable and both parents are able to adjust quickly and are capable of maintaining a healthy relationship with the children. A leading New York child custody attorney, who specializes in child custody situations agrees that in cases where both parents are willing to part on good terms, they can use joint custody as a way to improve their relationship with the children.
When it comes to parenting and promoting the wellbeing of your children, there are often no easy choices. You have to decide what is right for your and your children and if joint custody is a fit for your situation then go for joint custody. If however, your situation is less than ideal and the divorce is difficult or worse, perhaps you should consider an alternative that works better for your children in the long run.