Study: Children fare better in shared-parenting arrangements

Shared parenting - Shadows on the beachThere’s a new study out that pretty much supports what those who favor shared parenting arrangements have said all along:

Children of divorce do better when they spend time living with both of their parents.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the study, which was conducted in Sweden, looked at national data from nearly 150,000 12- and 15-year-old students. Researchers looked into whether they suffered from sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, headaches, stomachaches and feeling tense, sad or dizzy. Sixty-nine percent of those students lived with both parents; about 13 percent lived with only one parent.

Researchers concluded that while children who lived in nuclear families reported the fewest psychosomatic problems, those whose parents were divorced, but who lived in a shared-parenting situation, reported significantly fewer problems than those who lived with only one parent.

Opponents have long-argued that kids who are forced to live out of a suitcase (i.e. one week with one parent and the next week with the other) are more stressed. However, this latest research suggests that stability in a child’s relationship with their parents is more important than having them live with just one parent.

All too often in custody battles parents have a winner-takes-all attitude. Nearly two-dozen states are now looking at changing the laws that govern which parent gets legal and physical control of a child after a divorce or separation.

In most cases, judges often base their custody decisions on a “best interest of the child standard” which can be vague and indeterminate.

In Florida a provision calling for equally shared parenting was included in an alimony reform bill sponsored by state Sen. Kelli Stargel. However, after the House adjourned abruptly three days early, the alimony reform bill died . Had it passed, it would have created a presumption that approximately equal time-sharing by both parents is in the best interest of the child. It also would have revised a finite list of factors that a court must evaluate when determining whether the presumption of approximately equal time-sharing is overcome.

Children should not become pawns in their parent’s divorce. As more studies continue to show that children fare better spending time with both parents we can only hope that it is translated into laws that favor equal time-sharing.

Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.

Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.

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