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Study challenges assumptions regarding joint custody of children

Many child welfare experts believe that children of divorced parents fare better when one parent has sole custody. In Missouri and other states, this sole custody arrangement is thought to provide more stability and result in less stress for the children.

However, a recent study from Sweden indicates that joint custody and shared-parenting arrangements may actually be better for children. The study looked at almost 150,000 children in sixth or ninth grade. Among children of divorce, those who spent time living with both parents reported significantly fewer psychosomatic problems, such as headaches, stomachaches, sadness and difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

Researchers said that having regular, extended contact with both parents might overcome whatever stress may be caused by living in two homes. The shared custody also allows both parents have a greater opportunity to be fully engaged in the life of their child, and the child benefits from two circles of friends, two extended families and two family incomes. These benefits apparently allow the children to live happier, healthier lives than if they lived with only one parent. A researcher said that moving back and forth multiple times per week and spending more time with both parents avoids the loss of a close relationship with one parent that often occurs in sole custody arrangements.

A parent who is contemplating divorce may consider consulting with an attorney with experience in child custody cases. The attorney may be able to negotiate a joint custody arrangement that is acceptable to both parents and provides for the child's best interest.

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