The standard used by courts in Virginia and nationwide when it comes to making decisions regarding child custody is “the best interests of the child.” The idea is that, by focusing on the child’s needs, it will help the child transition to life after divorce in a healthy manner. According to research, shared parenting can be preferable in certain child custody situations, absent, of course, abuse or neglect. However, when it comes to making child custody decisions, shared parenting may be shunted to the side in favor of one parent having sole physical custody of the child, limiting the other parent to mere visitation periods. This is because outdated myths surrounding child custody still prevail.
One myth is that children do not want to live in two homes, which is what they would have to do in shared parenting situations. However, research involving adult children of divorced parents has shown that having kept a meaningful relationship with each of their parents was well-worth the bother of moving between households.
Another myth is that young children have stronger attachments to their mothers, so mothers should be awarded sole custody. According to some experts, however, while a baby’s attachment to a mother differs from that of a father, both of these attachments are strong and should be encouraged. Thus, even having children as young as infants spend time overnight with both their mother and father can be beneficial.
Some people believe that when a divorce is particularly acrimonious a shared parenting schedule will only pit a child between two warring parents. Therefore, it is only really successful when parents have split on relatively amicable terms. However, some researchers have found that even in situations in which shared parenting was ordered by the court, rather than being the product of out-of-court negotiations, it still helps a child adjust to post-divorce life and it reduces the amount of conflict the parents have with one-another in the long run.
Of course, every family’s dynamic is different. While shared custody may often be beneficial, it is important that all factors are considered when it comes to making child custody decisions. However, it is important that parents and judges do not unnecessarily hang on to outdated myths about shared parenting without giving it the consideration it deserves.
Source: Utah Valley Health and Wellness, “Avoid The Woozles And Zombies Of Shared Parenting,” Michelle Jones, Feb. 13, 2018