Children in Swedish study fare better with joint custody

Texas parents who are divorcing might be considering having the children spend most of their time with one parent, but a study out of Sweden suggests that this might not be the best arrangement. Although the director of the National Parents Organization estimates that fewer than 20 percent of children of divorced parents are in joint custody situations in the U.S., around 40 percent of children in Sweden split their time equally between both parents.

The study, which appeared in the "Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health," examined almost 150,000 12-year-old and 15-year-old children and their psychosomatic complaints such as sleep problems, dizziness, headaches and feeling tense. It found that children who lived with a single parent reported the most symptoms. Children whose parents had joint custody had far fewer, and children in nuclear families had the fewest. The most common symptom was sleep problems. Girls reported more sadness and had higher rates of psychosomatic illnesses than boys had.

The study's author points out that this contradicts what many experts have advised. It is believed that children will find moving between households disruptive, but parents who see their children regularly might be more likely to be engaged than parents who only have occasional visitation with their children. Children who are in regular contact with both parents may also have access to more resources including family and money.

Parents who are divorcing may want to consider whether joint physical custody might be in their child best's interests. One parent might want joint physical custody while the other parent may be fighting for sole physical custody. It may be possible to resolve the situation with mediation or negotiation, and an attorney can assist with this. If this is not possible and the dispute results in litigation, an attorney may be able to help protect a parent's access to their child.

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