Divorce is often a complicated process for everyone involved. In some cases, children are unwilling participants of a separation, forced to transition to a new lifestyle after their parents file for divorce. Depending on the circumstances of the case, kids may go from a traditional family situation to living with one parent or to living with both parents at different times. The noncustodial parent may have a set visitation schedule or have only limited visitation.

When a judge sets custody, he or she takes the child’s best interests into account. Yet studies show that joint-custody is beneficial to children in many different ways.

What are the benefits of joint custody?

In a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers looked at children raised in a traditional family, a joint-custody family and sole-custody living arrangements. Children brought up in joint-custody arrangements experienced several benefits over children raised in sole-custody situations:

  • Better grades in school
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Fewer behavioral problems
  • Stronger family relationships

Kids who spend time with both parents are more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol, stay out of jail, not suffer from depression and avoid pregnancy. Long-term results include achieving higher-paying careers, higher academic degrees, longer-lasting marriages, stronger support groups and a better sense of wellbeing when compared to children who spent the majority of time with only one parent. Kids often fare best when they are able to spend a significant amount of time with both parents.

Why do children need both parents?

Spending time with both parents is vital for children of all ages. Each parent provides children with something that the other cannot. While mothers generally provide a safe and nurturing environment, fathers often challenge children to explore their surroundings.

In addition, in most joint-custody situations, parents have to deal with one another in a more positive fashion. Cooperative co-parenting also benefits children, making for less stressful family situations.