Parents who decide to end their marriage are faced with a myriad of issues to tackle. One of the most difficult may be that of child custody. Not only are their heavy emotions when separating a family, but it is hard to determine what situation is best for the children.

Whether parents complete their divorce settlement through mediation or leave the final decision in the hands of a court-appointed judge, they must choose between sole physical or joint physical custody, otherwise referred to as shared parenting.

What is joint physical custody?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the situation, joint custody can be advantageous for children. In shared parenting arrangements, children split their time evenly or close to evenly with each parent. This allows children to spend a significant amount of time with each parent.

Sole custody situations, on the other hand, occur when children spend the majority of their time with the custodial parent, and have scheduled visitation with the non-custodial parent. This often translates to every other weekend and one evening a week with the non-custodial parent. Yet some wonder whether this is enough time.

What are the benefits?

Studies show that children who are raised in shared parenting situations have advantages over children in sole custody situations. The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that children in joint custody arrangements often show the following benefits:

  • Less likely to experience teen pregnancy, do drugs, smoke or drink
  • Better grades in school
  • Stronger social support networks
  • Fewer emotional and behavioral problems
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Stronger family relationships

When parents share custody of children, they often have more positive relationships with one another. This also benefits the children by creating an atmosphere with less stress and negativity.

Each parent influences the child in a unique way. While mothers generally provide a caring, safe and nurturing environment, fathers encourage children to explore their surroundings and provide discipline. It is essential that children have access to both parents on a regular basis. However, there are situations where sole-custody may be best.