A case for why joint child custody is the best option in divorce

In a perfect world, every couple who gets married and has a child would stay together. The reality, however, is that roughly 50 percent of U.S. marriages end in divorce and many of these divorces involve children. As family courts across the U.S. and throughout Maryland continue to struggle with child custody matters and how to provide for a child's best interests, new research lends credence to the theory that, when possible, joint custody is the best option.

For years, most states have favored mothers when determining child custody matters which limits a child’s access to his or her father. However a 2005 report entitled "Young Adults' Perspectives on Divorce: Living Arrangements," sheds light on how child custody arrangements that favor one parent aren’t' necessarily the most beneficial for kids.

For the study, university researchers surveyed 820 college students who grew up attempting to deal with often less-than-ideal child custody arrangements. When asked about their living arrangements growing up and the amount of time spent with and access to each parent, the vast majority of college students reported they wanted and would have benefited from having an equal amount to time with each parent.

This report, in addition to many other more recent reports and studies, indicates the critical roles that both a mother and father fulfill in a child's life. For example, an analysis of previous studies conducted by psychologist Robert Bauserman shows that children who have close relationships with their fathers are less likely to use drugs and more likely to graduate from high school. With U.S. Census data indicating that approximately 33 percent of children in the U.S. live in "biological father-absent households", the family courts should be making efforts to help fathers remain present and active in their children's lives.

Source: Herald Times, "Children of divorce want 'open access' to both mom and dad, studies show," Lois M. Collins, Oct. 9, 2014