Parents in Arizona who get a divorce might wonder whether they should seek sole or joint custody of their children and which arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Most research indicates that even for infants, a joint custody arrangement is not harmful and usually has the best outcomes for children.
One psychologist surveyed dozens of studies and found that shared parenting was a beneficial arrangement for children of all ages. More than 100 experts worldwide endorsed his findings. He also pointed out that current understanding of child development does not support the idea that it would be harmful for toddlers and infants to spend the night with their father.
A professor who looked at 54 studies reached a similar conclusion. Comparing children who were in sole versus joint custody situations, she found that children in joint custody arrangements had better relationships, more academic achievement and better physical and emotional health. Children in sole custody situations were more likely to have behavioral problems and suffer from depression, anxiety and stress-related illnesses. She found that these outcomes held true even if there was significant conflict between the parents.
Sole custody arrangements may also damage the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent. One set of researchers found that only about 33 percent of children in sole custody arrangements saw the other parent once a month or more.
Custody is not just about where a child lives. Parents must also negotiate sole or joint legal custody. Legal custody is about the right of the parent to participate in major decisions about the child’s life. This might include what kind of medical care the child receives or where the child goes to school. Parents who have specific concerns, such as when the child might meet the other parent’s new partner, may want to address those concerns in the parenting agreement.