Galileo’s revelation that the earth revolves around the sun made us question everything. Were we not the center of the universe? What did this say about the existence of a higher power? What was real anymore?! Filled with these questions and others like them, our understanding of existence was shaken at its foundation.
Divorce has a similar effect on children, who see their parents as incredible beings. Parents have all the answers, always know what to do, and can fix whatever is broken. So, when parents are unable to keep a child’s world intact, their flaws become visible for perhaps the first time. Suddenly, parents don’t know everything. They don’t even know how to get along. This revelation opens the door to many uncertainties.
For this reason, parents who are getting a divorce should try to maintain whatever consistency they can. Consistency shows that, while parents are not in control of everything, they are still in control.
This is perhaps the greatest benefit of joint custody. By allowing them to spend equal time with both parents, it helps minimize the uncertainties that often come with spending time in more than one home.
There are other benefits to joint custody as well.
Helps Children Excel
During divorce proceedings, a child’s health, happiness, and success must remain front and center. For this reason alone, joint custody should at least be considered.
Psychiatrist Richard Warshak reports that “Children who spend at least 35 percent time with each parent, rather than live with one and visit the other, have better relationships with [both parents] and do better academically, socially, and psychologically.” The study also indicated that children in this type of situation are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, or develop anxiety or depression.
Helps Both Parents to Excel
In years past, the default mode of child custody was to stay with one parent and to visit the other every other weekend. While the child could have fun with the “other” parent, their relationship lacked substance. Furthermore, parents who spent so little time parenting were unable to recognize patterns and signals in their children’s behavior. With joint custody, both parents can learn to read their children and understand them as individuals, rather than having to apply one-size-fits-all parenting techniques from a standard playbook.
Forces Parents to Work Together
This can be one of the unexpected benefits of ending a messy relationship. For a child to spend a significant amount of time with each parent, a lot of coordinating is required: when and where to meet, delivering forgotten items, recaps of foods eaten, medicines administered, behavior to watch out for. Often, before they even know it, parents who once struggled to have an uneventful conversation are being cordial to one another. It makes sense. When they remove the destructive element – their romantic relationship – and focus solely on the needs of their children, divorced parents often come to see one another as partners with a common goal, even if they no longer work in the same precinct.
Divorce changes a lot of things, but it does not change the fact that a child has two parents. As such, most children would prefer to maintain their relationship with both parents after a divorce. There are certainly exceptions. If, for example, one parent is abusive or otherwise incapable of taking proper care of a child, a court may find that custody favoring one parent over the other is best. Barring any such circumstance, though, joint custody is perhaps the best way for divorced parents to help their children stay centered after a distressing paradigm shift.
Whether you’re considering joint custody or full-time care, just remember that the happiness and health of your child are what matters most. If you’re ever unsure about your options or your rights, legal counsel is always just a phone call away