Embracing 50/50 Custody is the Best for Children

By Lauren Hall
May 13, 2024

Embracing 50/50 Custody is the Best for Children

I am not an advocate for divorce on many occasions, but I do know there are some situations in which the ending of a relationship is better for everyone involved–and that’s okay. When one of my closest friends called me to tell me she was officially filing for a divorce, there was a sense of relief in her voice and an optimistic outlook for the future. Inevitably, her biggest concern was what to do for her children. 

Deciding on custody arrangements can be one of the most challenging aspects of the divorce process, as well as for unmarried couples who have children. Traditionally, custody arrangements often lean towards favoring one parent over the other, but a growing body of research and evidence-based practices are pointing towards a more balanced approach: 50/50 custody. Experts across the nation are beginning to agree this arrangement can offer numerous benefits for children and families alike.

First and foremost, 50/50 custody promotes the invaluable principle of equality. Children thrive when they have consistent and meaningful relationships with both parents. Dr. Edward Kruk, a professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, highlights in his research that children benefit from having access to both parents post-divorce, leading to better psychological and emotional outcomes. He emphasizes that “shared parenting tends to be associated with better outcomes for children.”

In a recent article written by journalist Emma Johnson and published by the Institute for Family Studies, Johnson shares that a 2023 analysis of existing research found that on many measures, children in shared parenting arrangements “do equally well compared to children in nuclear families.” 

“The studies measured the kids’ academic, cognitive, emotional, and psychological outcomes, behavioral problems, overall physical health or stress-related physical problems, and the parent-child relationship quality,” writes Johnson. “This emerging culture shift to 50/50 parenting norms has also been a challenge for me, a lifelong feminist and journalist, who has devoted the heart of my career to celebrating single-mother families.”

Ultimately, 50/50 custody encourages co-parenting and shared responsibilities. When both parents are actively involved in raising their children, it fosters a sense of cooperation and mutual support, even after the marriage has ended. This shared responsibility can alleviate the burden on a single parent and provide a more stable environment for the children. According to research published in the Journal of Family Psychology, children in shared custody arrangements report higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships with both parents compared to those in sole custody arrangements.

Critics of 50/50 custody often raise concerns about logistical challenges and disruptions to children’s routines. However, experts argue that with effective communication and cooperation between parents, these challenges can be overcome. Dr. Linda Nielsen, a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University, suggests that parents can work together to create consistent routines and rules across households, providing stability for the children.

Furthermore, 50/50 custody can mitigate the negative effects of parental conflict on children.

Research consistently shows that ongoing conflict between parents can have detrimental effects on children’s well-being. By sharing custody equally, parents may be motivated to minimize conflicts and prioritize the needs of their children, creating a healthier environment for them to thrive.

Of course, every family situation is unique, and 50/50 custody may not be feasible or suitable in every case. Factors such as distance between parents’ homes, work schedules, and the child’s best interests should all be carefully considered when determining custody arrangements. The growing body of research and expert opinions support the benefits of shared parenting overall.

Embracing 50/50 custody as a standard practice can promote equality, cooperation, and stability for children and families. By prioritizing the well-being of the children and fostering healthy relationships with both parents, families can navigate the complexities of shared parenting with compassion and empathy, ultimately providing a brighter future for the next generation.

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