Views of Shared Physical Custody

Recent social science research has suggested that shared physical custody may be more viable than previously believed.  Traditionally, sole physical custody to one parent was believed to be in the best interest of the child.  Children were thought to be more attached to one parent and to benefit from the stability and continuity of sole physical custody.  Additionally, the conflict between the parents at the time of the divorce was believed to make shared custody unworkable.  Shared physical custody was thought to be viable only for the unusual family in which the parents still get along well at the time of the divorce and mutually agree to share custody.

But studies over the last ten years have suggested that shared physical custody may work better than previously believed.  Children seem to adapt fairly well to going back and forth between two homes. Most parents seem to be able to settle into a shared physical custody arrangement, even if they were in conflict at the time of the divorce.  Finally, shared custody kept both parents involved with the children.  The studies indicate that children usually benefit over the course of their lives from stronger relationships with both parents.

There are times when shared physical custody will not work.  A pattern of domestic violence points strongly against shared physical custody.  Unfitness of a parent, or a parent who has a high conflict personality, also points away from shared custody.

While each situation is unique and the studies found plenty of shared custody arrangements that failed, the research indicates that shared physical custody may work better for children than previously believed.

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