One of the most challenging aspects of divorce can be the decisions made around custody arrangement for your children. How do you smoothly transition to life post-divorce and make sure your children are comfortable and still well-parented? A study published in September of this year suggests that the best way to ensure that your children are well-adjusted may be to split custody fifty-fifty.
Conducted in Sweden, the study followed over 3,000 preschool-aged children of divorced parents and found that children who spent roughly the same amount of time with each parent had less behavioral issues and symptoms of mental challenges than children who lived primarily with one spouse or the other.
Does this mean that a fifty-fifty custody arrangement is always the best option? In short, no. While with all things being equal a fifty-fifty custody split may be better than other arrangements, many factors have to be considered, including the following:
- What is the child’s relationship with each parent? If your child is more comfortable or close with one spouse or the other and is handling the divorce particularly poorly, it may be in the child’s best interest to spend more time with the spouse they feel most comfortable with. If the divorce was in part because of poor treatment of your child/children by your spouse, obviously fifty-fifty is going to be unhealthy.
- What does a fifty-fifty custody arrangement mean for your child’s activities, and social life? If you and your spouse live a significant geographic distance apart, it is important to think about how your child living with one spouse or the other for a period will affect their ability to easily see their friends and participate in activities.
- What is the age of the child and has the child formed a particular attachment to one parent that needs to be identified and addressed from a developmental and emotional assessment by a qualified professional?
While there’s no magic formula for optimizing your child’s well-being after a divorce, and each family has specific circumstances that always need to be considered and weighed, the Sweden study suggests that, excluding extraordinary circumstances, equal custody may be best for children’s emotional and mental health.