Courts guided by old attitudes about children needing to be solely with their mothers continue to grant women full physical custody of children in over 80 percent of custody disputes decided by judges. Researchers, however, have identified shared custody as the ideal, and parents in California facing the possibility of a legal battle over their children should understand that children benefit from relationships with both parents.
A professor of adolescent and educational psychology explored the effects of shared custody on children by examining 44 studies about divorce and children. The professor found that parent-child relationships mattered more than persistent conflicts between the divorced parents. In general, even poor co-parenting compared favorably to single parenting in regards to the happiness of children.
The collective findings of the studies did not support the traditional view that stable sole custody arrangements insulated children from conflict. Conflicts between divorced parents typically subside after a few years, but the chance to have a relationship with both parents can improve entire childhoods. The founder of the National Parents Organization said that children growing up in shared custody families tend to succeed in school more, use drugs less, experience teen pregnancy less and consider their futures optimistically.
With this in mind, a person who needs to negotiate a child custody arrangement could work toward shared custody when it supports the best interests of the child. The representation of an attorney may help a person achieve this goal. An attorney could inform the person about parental rights and challenge attempts by the other parent to establish sole custody. Negotiations led by an attorney may be able to buffer the person from hostile conversations. An attorney could also file documentation with the family court that demonstrates the person's ability to provide a safe home life for the children.