Separated parents choosing joint custody of children

Date: May 26, 2014

Divorce can be very difficult on children. Not only do they have to deal with seeing their parents arguing or unhappy, but also with the reality that they could be living away from one parent for the majority of time.

The decisions made during or after a separation are vital for the mental wellbeing of children and their ongoing health, so it is encouraging to see a recent US study suggesting joint custody of children is becoming the norm.

Although it depends on individual cases and circumstances, it has been widely documented that children who retain visitation with both parents cope with divorce better.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers conducted a study looking at divorce data from two different time periods for the state of Wisconsin. In 1998, the first time period was analysed and now recent more data has been added to see if it had changed.

The first selection of data from between 1986 and 1994 found that 80 per cent of divorce cases resulted in the mother being granted full custody. By 1994, researchers found this percentage decreased by 1994 to 74 per cent. At the same time, shared custody agreements rose from 7 per cent to 14 per cent.

This is where the findings become interesting.

Researchers analysed divorce data from 2008 and found of the nearly 10,000 cases, just 42 per cent gave full custody to the mother. Shared custody decisions increased from 14 per cent in 1994 to close to third (27 per cent).

Lead author of the study Maria Cancian said the findings were a result of increased knowledge about the affects of divorce on children.

"Overall, the trend away from mother-sole custody and toward shared custody is dramatic, representing a substantial change in the living situations of children of divorce over a relatively short period," she said.

It is important to note that there were no significant difference between 1986 and 2008 in terms of sole custody to fathers. This rate dropped marginally from 11 per cent to 9 per cent.

Divorce in NSW

If you are currently going through a relationship breakdown or divorce where children are involved, it is recommended to contact with a divorce lawyer.

A lawyer can discuss your circumstances and prepare documents for a child custody agreement. This can help as bringing in a neutral person can ensure that both sides' interests are taken into account and the result can be the best for both parents and, more importantly, the children.