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Can young children thrive in joint custody?

A study out of Sweden recently dug into what was best for kids after divorce: sole custody with one parent or joint custody with both. The study focused on younger children, ranging in age from three to five years. Researchers were inspired by the contention from child experts that young children did not fare well in joint custody situations.

These experts stated that young children needed “continuity and stability in their parent relations.” Yet the researchers noted that the practice of joint custody was growing. Was this shift doing young children harm?

Joint custody defined: For this study, researchers considered any arrangement that had children living alternately and spending about the same amount of time with both parents as a joint custody arrangement.

Data used: The researchers reviewed the behavior and mental problems of 3,656 children. Of these children, 136 were in joint custody arrangements, 3,369 in a more traditional nuclear family arrangement, 79 with mostly one parent and 72 with only one parent. These children were assessed using a questionnaire.

Results: Ultimately, the researchers found that there were no significant differences between children in joint custody arrangements and those in a traditional nuclear setting.

Lessons for those considering divorce here in the States: The results likely translate to similar situations here in the United States. If parents are able to make a joint custody arrangement work, even young children will likely thrive.

Determining the best arrangement will depend on each family situation. There is no one right answer. As such, it is wise for those who are going through a divorce to seek legal counsel. An experienced lawyer can help review your situation and structure an arrangement that will meet your needs.

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