Debate continues about which custody arrangement is best

This article looks at the debate about which custody arrangement is indeed better for children’s wellbeing.

When it comes to child custody, Texas law, like the law in most states, puts the best interests of the child first. However, determining what is actually in the best interests of the child tends to be easier said than done. In some cases, for example, a child may benefit most from living only with one parent and having little or no contact with the other parent. In other cases, a joint custody arrangement where both spouses get equal or nearly equal time with their children may be best. Below is a look at the debate surrounding which child custody arrangement actually is in children's best interests.

The argument for sole or primary custody

As Time magazine reports, until relatively recently most family law experts and child behavior specialists assumed that the best custody arrangement for most children was sole or primary custody. In sole custody, the child lives with just one parent and less contact with the other parent, while in primary joint custody or "joint managing conservatorship" the child lives most of the time with one parent while maybe spending 1st, 3rd, and 5th weekends with the other parent, plus additional time during the week, during holidays and during the summer.

The argument for this living situation is that constantly shuttling children between two households is too stressful for them. Furthermore, sole or primary custody limits children's exposure to their parents fighting with one another. The less exposure children have to parental conflict, the better, according to many legal and child development experts.

Shared parenting gains momentum

In recent years, however, there has been a nationwide push to ensure that both parents have a presumptive equal opportunity to remain an active presence in their children's lives. Indeed, there are a number of studies that support the view that children do better when they live with both parents. As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, one study found that the effect that conflict between parents has on children may be overestimated. That study found that what tends to be far more damaging to most children are custody situations where one parent cannot maintain an active and healthy relationship with the child. That study concluded that in most situations, equal or near-equal parenting time is in the best interests of children.

That study did, however, point out that its conclusions do not apply to all families. The researchers pointed out, for example, that in situations where living with a particular parent could expose the child to physical, emotional, or substance abuse, then obviously a sole custody arrangement with the other parent would most likely be in that child's best interests.

No two families are alike

Every family is different, which is why parents should have an attorney on their side that can help them fight for a custody arrangement that will help them remain in their children's lives. While courts in Texas usually start from the assumption that in most cases joint custody is in the best interests of the child, joint managing conservatorship in Texas does not automatically equate to equal (50/50) parenting time, and 50/50 parenting time is certainly not appropriate in all cases. An experienced Board-certified family law expert attorney can help clients reach a satisfactory settlement with the other parent or, if necessary, advocate for their rights in court.