That is the current system, in which attorneys, judges and courts are financially incentivized to promote fighting over custody and visitation time. The more ambiguous the law, the more room the legal industry has to help everyday people navigate it — all while billing $300 per hour.
One family attorney reported that average divorce retainers in Arizona fell by half after legislation promoting “maximum time with each parent” was passed in that state. It is no wonder that state bar associations are consistently the opponent to shared parenting laws are introduced.
Thankfully, this can end now that there is access to excellent and extensive academic research on what is best for children in separated families.
A TIME magazine article on how children of divorce fared best when they equally split time between both mom and dad’s house has a great quote from a study author:
“We think that having everyday contact with both parents seems to be more important, in terms of stress, than living in two different homes,” says Bergström. “It may be difficult to keep up on engaged parenting if you only see your child every second weekend.” Having two parents also tends to double the number of resources a kid is exposed to, including social circles, family and material goods like money. “Only having access to half of that may make children more vulnerable or stressed than having it from both parents, even though they don’t live together,” she says.
Here are the highlights of studies on 50-50 parenting time:
Meta study on shared parenting
Dr. Linda Nielsen, Wake Forrest University: Are the outcomes any better or worse for children who live with each parent at least 35% of the time compared to children who live primarily with their mother and spend less than 35% of the time living with their father? This article addresses this question by summarizing the 54 studies that have compared children in these two types of families during the past 25 years. Overall the children in shared parenting families had better outcomes on measures of emotional, behavioral, and psychological well-being, as well as better physical health and better relationships with their fathers and their mothers, benefits that remained even when there were high levels of conflict between their parents.
Shared parenting benefits:Children in shared-parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families.
These measures include:
- Academic achievement
- Emotional health
- Behavioral problems
- Physical health and stress-related illnesses
- Relationships with parents, stepparents, and grandparents
Shared parenting for newborns, babies and toddlers
Shared parenting in high-conflict situations
Linda Neilsen’s research found that, despite the assumption that conflict with parents was more damaging that minimized time with a parent (father), that was not the case, after reviewing 54 studies. You can read more in this article on shared parenting in high-conflict situations, which in summary:
- Families with higher income were not more likely to have shared parenting arrangements.
- Parents with equally shared parenting agreements did not have better co-parenting relationships or less conflict than those with sole-custody arrangements. “The benefits linked to JPC cannot be attributed to better co-parenting or to lower conflict.”
- Most parents with joint physical custody did not originally agree to the arrangement — but was agreed to under pressure or order from courts or legal negotiations.
- Exposure to high, ongoing conflict is no more damaging to children in 50-50 arrangements than in sole physical custody families.
- Most parents with equal parenting agreements have distant and attached relationships — not warm co-parenting.