Are children better off living with just one parent after divorce?

A look at why a number of studies say that shared parenting may be the best custody arrangement for children.

In Texas, as in all states, the courts have just one job in child custody disputes: to figure out an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child. In most cases, the courts will try to ensure that the child spends a meaningful amount of time with both parents, although any final custody arrangement is bound to leave at least one parent feeling unhappy. What is worth considering, however, is whether living with one parent or both parents is in the child's best interests. Below is a look at some recent studies that try to answer this very fraught question.

Who does the child live with?

The question of which parent the child gets to live with is obviously a highly charged one for most families. Furthermore, it is a contentious topic in family law itself whether children are better off living primarily with one parent (i.e., in a sole custody arrangement) or if they should split their time roughly equally with both parents (i.e., shared parenting).

Those in favor of sole custody argue that shuttling children between two households is too disruptive to their way of life. Furthermore, by constantly being ferried back and forth between the two parents, those children are more likely to witness their parents fighting and arguing with one another.

Better to split parenting time?

However, as Time reports, one recent study found that children who lived with just one parent had, on average, more psychosomatic problems, such as sleep disorders, than those who lived with both parents. Another study, this time reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, found that exposure to conflict between parents in a shared parenting arrangement actually has little impact on a child's later behavioral wellbeing. What did have a negative impact on children's wellbeing was being deprived of a meaningful relationship with each parent.

While those studies suggest that each parent should maintain a positive role in their child's life after a divorce - and, indeed, that is precisely what Texas courts usually strive to achieve - it is also worth noting that few families actually conform to scientific averages. Child custody arrangements work best when they are tailored to the unique needs and challenges of individual families. Furthermore, when there is a lot of conflict within the family or when one parent has been accused of domestic or substance abuse, then shared parenting may in fact be very harmful for the children.

Family law solutions

When it comes to finding a suitable child custody arrangement, a family law attorney can help. An attorney can show clients how to mount a strong case and how to negotiate effectively for a custody arrangement that ensures that the client is able to maintain a healthy and positive relationship with their children long after the divorce.