New study reaffirms benefits of joint custody arrangements

Children experience less stress after divorce when both parents are involved in child-rearing duties

This article explains joint custody options in a Pennsylvania divorce.

Divorce affects the whole family, which is why custody issues are often the most difficult aspect of divorce. Where the kids will live, with whom, and how much visitation the non-custodial parent should have can be delicate and complicated matters. For most, the first priority is the wellbeing of kids. To that end, a new study adds to the growing evidence that kids benefit from joint parenting, even if it means more travel time.

The new study, published on April 27 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that children do best in a joint custody arrangement. The authors of the study note that this could be due to several factors, such as a greater network of support provided by each parent and increased access to material goods. The study showed that children in joint custody arrangements tended to have fewer psychosomatic symptoms than children who received support from only one parent. Children did not sleep as well and experienced more sadness and other distressing emotions when only living with one parent, compared to actively living with both.

However, the results of this study should not be taken to mean joint custody is best in all cases. When a custody matter involves a history of domestic abuse, substance abuse, or mental health issues, children can often do better with the healthy parent. However, merely needing to travel and living in two households provided less stress for children after a divorce than living with only one parent.

Joint custody options in a Pennsylvania divorce

The custody options for divorcing parents are numerous and can be overwhelming. If joint custody is an option, there are several ways in which the parents can agree to a shared parenting plan in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania state law views it as the best interest of the child to have reasonable and continuing contact with each parent after divorce, and that both parents share the rights and responsibilities of parenting.

Parents who wish to explore joint custody have two options. If the parents can agree on a parenting plan that splits time among the parents, accounts for educational and religious upbringing, and addresses transportation, then the court can approve that plan. The court must still find that the plan is in the best interest of the child.

If parents cannot agree on a custody plan, the court will decide the issue according to the best interest of the child. The "best interest" standard is purposefully broad, and can encompass anything from the criminal history of each parent to which parent is more likely to allow access to the children by the other parent.

Joint custody does not necessarily mean equal time for each parent. Instead, it means that each parent will share physical and legal custody of the child. In other words, each parent will live with the child for a certain amount of time each year and both will have a say in important child-rearing decisions, which can include diet, disciplinary matters, and extracurricular activities.

Legal help available

Within the legal framework of joint custody, there are a wide array of options regarding schedule, living situations, and other matters. For example, if the parents live close together, the child could attend the same school year-round while alternating weeks with each parent. If the parents live farther apart, one parent could have custody during the school year and the other during summer vacation.

Whatever the ultimate resolution, it is possible to provide children with the support and loving environment they need after a divorce. At Testa & Pagnanelli, LLC our attorneys provide legal counsel and representation to parents going through divorce who are concerned about the wellbeing of their children. Contact our office to discuss your legal options in custody proceedings.

Keywords: custody arrangements,Pennsylvania divorce,community health.