Parents in Florida who are getting a divorce may want to explore possibilities for joint custody. A number of studies have indicated that this arrangement usually leads to children who are psychologically and socially healthier and who do better in school. They are also less at risk for smoking, drinking and drug use.
This perception of the advantages of shared custody has not always been the case, and even today, the arrangement has its critics. In the 1970s, a divorce sometimes meant fathers being largely absent from their children's lives. Although this has changed, many arrangements in which one parent, often the mother, has physical custody and the child only visits the other parent may lead to a situation in which the parent who is visited is not as able to build an effective parent-child relationship.
One psychology professor took a look at the data on families with joint custody to test two common objections to the arrangement. One was that it could be harmful if one parent disapproved of the arrangement. The other was that when it succeeded, it was in families that had more money. The study found that even in situations of high conflict or when one parent opposed joint custody, the child was healthier. Furthermore, income and the success of the arrangement were not linked.
Child custody can be one of the most emotionally difficult aspects of a divorce to navigate. A judge who makes a decision about child custody will use the standard of the best interests of the child, but parents who are attempting to negotiate custody with their attorneys should keep this standard in mind as well. Even if joint custody is not an appropriate arrangement in a particular situation, children usually benefit from spending time with both parents.