The surprising science behind which custody arrangement is best

This article looks at the surprising science behind which custody arrangement is best for children.

When it comes to divorce, there are few issues that arouse as much emotion as those related to child custody. In Arizona, as elsewhere in the country, the courts try to develop a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child, but determining what custody arrangement is actually in a child's best interests is rarely obvious or straightforward. Every family is unique and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution. However, recent studies are shining some light on this topic and have come to a somewhat surprising conclusion about which custody arrangement tends to lead to better behavioral outcomes for children.

Role of conflict is complicated

As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, researchers at Wake Forest University recently examined 44 previous studies on the effects different custody arrangements had on children, with a focus on how conflict within a family affects children's behavioral and psychological outcomes. Somewhat surprisingly, the results showed that conflict that was kept strictly between parents had little impact on a child's development. What mattered far more was that the child had a healthy and positive relationship with each parent.

In fact, even when parents aren't very good at co-parenting, such as when they argue about schooling or holiday time, the effect on the child is minimal so long as each parent maintains a meaningful role in that child's life. Those results largely align with a previous study that found children who spent time living with both parents after a divorce had fewer psychosomatic problems than those who lived with just one, as Time reports.

Is shared parenting always the best option?

Arizona's courts start from the assumption that both parents should maintain a presence in their child's life and the above research certainly suggests that such an assumption is a good starting point for most custody cases. However, when dealing with studies like the ones above, it is important to remember that while shared parenting may be best for most children, it is not best for all children.

Especially in high-conflict cases, which tend to involve allegations of domestic or substance abuse, there is often a very strong argument to be made against shared parenting. It should go without saying, but whenever a child's physical or psychological health may be endangered by one parent, then it is certainly in the best interests of that child to live primarily or exclusively with the other parent.

Family law help

For those who have a child custody issue that needs to be resolved, it is extremely important that they talk to an experienced family law attorney. Particularly in high-conflict cases, having an attorney will help the parent make a strong case fo r whatever custody arrangement they believe to be in their child or children's best interests.