When a Minnesota couple with young children get divorced, they and their children might benefit from a shared parenting arrangement. While mothers still get physical custody of children in a majority of cases where the judge is making the decision, the balance is shifting toward a more equitable arrangement. In countries such as Sweden, shared parenting is commonplace while some states, including Kentucky and Missouri, have passed legislation to encourage shared parenting. A number of other states are considering similar legislation.
Research has shown that children do better in joint custody arrangements. Studies were presented in support of shared parenting after divorce at the 2017 International Conference on Shared Parenting in Boston, and research published by the American Psychological Association even supports shared parenting when children are very young.
There are benefits for parents as well. Mothers who get sole or primary physical custody may have fewer career opportunities. Shared parenting gives them more chances to pursue these opportunities. On the other hand, under traditional custody arrangements, fathers are usually relegated to the role of breadwinner and part-time father. Joint custody allows them to participate more fully in their children’s lives.
Making decisions around child custody can be an issue that is fraught with emotion. A parent’s first impulse might be to fight for full custody because the idea of not having children around full time may be painful. However, parents should keep the best interests of the child in mind just as a judge does in making a custody decision. Most of the time, it is better for children to have the chance to build substantial relationships with both parents. Parents may also find that if they can cooperate with one another, they are able to negotiate an agreement that is better suited to their family than a decision made by a court.