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Kids do best in shared-custody situations

Divorce can be a difficult experience for children, but good child custody arrangements can minimize stress and help children deal well with the transition in their family situation. What sort of custody arrangements work best has long been a subject of debate among child experts, but a new study recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggests that shared custody may be the least stressful option for children. Pennsylvania families involved in child custody negotiations may find these results helpful in discerning the best arrangements for their children.

The study, conducted in Sweden, used national data for nearly 150,000 students aged either 12 or 15. Of this group of students, about 69 percent lived in nuclear families, 19 percent lived with both parents and about 13 percent lived with only one parent. The researchers examined the incidence of psychosomatic health problems, such as sleep disorders, trouble concentrating, poor appetite, headaches, stomach complaints, and feelings of tenseness, dizziness, or sadness.

Although students in nuclear families had the fewest psychosomatic complaints, researchers were surprised to find that students in shared custody arrangements reported fewer problems than their peers who lived with only one parent. Researchers believe that frequent contact with both parents and access to double the number of resources, like extended family, social circles and money, can ease stress for children of divorce.

Joint-custody parenting now makes up 40 percent of all custody arrangements in Sweden, but it is less common in the U.S. at less than 20 percent. A parent who wishes to advocate for joint custody may benefit from the services of an attorney in making the case for this arrangement based on evidence found in this study, which suggests that such an arrangement may be in the best interests of the child.

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