For children in Arkansas, shared parenting may offer unique benefits

After divorce, joint custody may present a less stressful alternative to sole custody for children, according to recent research.

For many divorcing parents in Jacksonville, deciding whether to pursue joint or sole custody can be a difficult decision. Beneficially, joint custody can foster better relationships between children and both of their parents. At the same time, it may introduce inconsistency or stress, which can be difficult for children. Although the merits of both child custody arrangements remain debatable, one study suggests that shared custody and parenting may offer distinct benefits for many children.

Can shared custody reduce stress?

The study in question looked at data collected for nearly 150,000 students, who were all either 12 or 15 years old. Some of these students lived in nuclear families, while others lived with one or both parents after divorce. The researchers theorized that, next to the kids in nuclear families, the children who lived with one parent would experience the least stress. To test the hypothesis, the researchers tracked multiple psychosomatic health problems that can act as indicators of stress, including:

  • Physical ailments, such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Mental changes, such as difficulty concentrating and feelings of sadness
  • Other issues, including sleep problems, dizziness and appetite loss

The researchers were surprised to find that the children who lived with both parents experienced notably less stress than those who lived with one parent. They theorized that this is because children who split time with both parents enjoy greater financial and social resources. Additionally, these children may benefit from stronger parental relationships, since their parents can stay more engaged and involved.

These findings reflect statistical averages and do not indicate that every family would benefit most from a joint custody arrangement. Still, the results suggest that people who are interested in sharing physical custody should not rule out the option due to concerns about negative effects on their children.

Do Arkansas courts favor shared parenting?

Until relatively recently, Arkansas law did not presume that shared parenting was the best arrangement for children. According to USA Today, in former cases, judges had even established a precedent that joint custody was not a favored outcome. In 2013, however, the state passed a law that called for judges to award a roughly even division of parenting time if doing so was reasonable.

As an alternative to accepting court-ordered arrangements, parents getting divorced in Arkansas also can agree to parenting plans, which can address both custody and visitation issues. Through processes such as mediation, parents may be able to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement that can then be formalized in court along with other aspects of the divorce settlement.

While working through these custody and visitation issues, parents may want to consider seeking legal advice. An attorney may be able to offer guidance and assistance during the drafting of the parenting plan. An attorney additionally may be able to help a parent handle any disagreements that arise during this process.