Study shows that joint custody may be less stressful for Ohio kids

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Research suggests that children may experience less stress and associated health issues after divorce if their parents share custody.

Even when divorce is handled smoothly and with minimal conflict, the associated upheaval can be highly stressful for children. As many parents in Columbus know, it can also be difficult for children to adjust to custody arrangements and other aspects of life after divorce. Encouragingly, though, new research suggests that shared parenting arrangements may help reduce stress for children during this challenging time.

Minimizing stress after divorce

During the study, which was published in The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, researchers considered data collected from nearly 150,000 students. The Swedish students were all either twelve or fifteen years old. The researchers tracked several health problems that can be aggravated by stress and mental factors, including:

  • Sleep and appetite disturbances
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression

The participants who lived with their married parents reported the lowest number of these psychosomatic health conditions. The children who spent time living with both divorced parents were the second least likely group to experience these issues. Children who only lived with one parent after divorce reported substantially more health problems.

The researchers suggested a few reasons for these findings. Sharing custody may allow parents to maintain stronger relationships with their children and stay more involved. Children may also benefit from being exposed to more resources, such as family members and social groups, while living with two parents. Of course, the ideal arrangement may vary between families, but these findings suggest that joint custody may offer benefits for many children.

Seeking joint custody

In Ohio, state law holds that parents are equally entitled to rights and responsibilities regarding their children. Divorcing parents have a right to submit their own shared parenting plans for approval in family law court. Family law judges also may order joint custody, if this arrangement appears to be in the best interests of the child.

In general, judges may consider various factors to identify the arrangement that most benefits each child. The preferences of the child and both parents may be taken into account. Each parent's health, financial standing and ability to cooperate with custody or visitation orders may also be weighed. Additionally, a judge may evaluate factors such as the location of both residences and the ability of both parents to work together cooperatively.

Despite its benefits, shared custody is not a guaranteed outcome when custody orders are determined in family law court. Therefore, parents who are interested in this arrangement may benefit from working with a family law attorney. An attorney may be able to help a parent create a reasonable shared parenting plan or protect his or her parental rights during the divorce proceedings.

Keywords: divorce, children, custody