New Research Supports Shared Custody For Children In Divorce

By Gail Rosenblum
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Linda Nielsen, a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University suggests that to truly help families move forward, the focus should be on developing programs and policies that strengthen the child’s relationship with each parent. (During and Post Divorce)

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

What two factors vastly increase the likelihood of a healthy and happy future for kids after divorce?

Mom, and Dad.

With the important exception of children who need protection from an abusive or negligent parent, “shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children,” said Linda Nielsen, a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University.

It’s difficult to believe that, in 2017, this even is a question. But statistics show that mothers still are awarded full physical custody of children in more than 80 percent of court-ordered child custody cases.

One big reason for the inequity is a decades-long belief by judges and others that conflict between divorcing parents (which is to be expected at this difficult passage) will cause too much stress for children.

Those wary of establishing shared parenting argue that it places children in the middle of disagreements, pressures them into loyalty conflicts or forces them to side with one parent against the other.

Their thinking is that it’s better to formally place the children in Mom’s household for stability and let Dad parent one night a week and every other weekend.

In a new study, Nielsen re-examined this notion, with surprising results.

“The role of conflict has too often been exaggerated and should not be the determining factor in child custody decisions,” said Nielsen, who has researched father-daughter bonds for more than 25 years.

Even the concept of conflict is problematic, Nielsen said, “because it is difficult to define or to assess reliably, in part because parents sometimes exaggerate or provoke conflict to ‘win’ sole custody.”

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