One of the first things you might ask yourself when you decide to divorce is, "How often will I see my children?" The time you spend with your kids is precious, and you understandably want to protect that while also respecting their best interests.
But if you are like most fathers in Missouri, you may assume that your custody arrangement will automatically end up in the "traditional" manner -- kids stay with mom during the week and you see them on the weekends. Maybe only every other weekend. However, as fathers are now far more involved than they were in the past, this arrangement is not always best.
What is joint custody?
You may already know of joint legal custody. This allows both parents to have an equal say in important decisions regarding child rearing, such as education and religious upbringing, regardless of who the primary custodian is.
If you have joint legal custody, it means that your child spends roughly equal amounts of time with both you and your ex. This is a huge deviation from historical norms, but psychologists agree that the benefits to the child are astounding so long as the parents can make this arrangement work.
Benefits of joint custody
Studies indicate that children of divorce who had visitation with their fathers only twice monthly did not develop the same kind of parent-child relationship as they did with their mothers. Many children felt like guests in their fathers' homes rather than family members who belonged there. Giving your child equal access to both you and your ex can help him or her develop more meaningful relationships with both of you.
A review of over 50 studies found other benefits, too. If your child is in a joint physical custody relationship, they are less likely to deal with depression, anxiety and other illnesses related to stress. They are also less likely to engage in certain risky behaviors, including:
- Underage drinking
- Drug use
Is joint custody right for my family?
If you are worried that there is too much animosity between you and your ex to make a joint custody arrangement work, a study from Wake Forest University might put your mind at ease. Researchers found that children still thrived even when conflict remained high between divorced parents.
Ultimately, your child custody arrangement should reflect your own child's best interests. Determining exactly what those best interests are may not always be easy, especially if your divorce is contentious. In such cases, guidance provided by experienced Missouri family law counsel can help make sure that any agreement reflects what is best for your child.