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Swedish study shows benefits of joint custody for children

Parents in Texas who are divorcing might be told that children do better if one parent has primary physical custody instead of the child moving back and forth between two parents with joint physical custody. Many people believe that doing so is too disruptive to the child. However, according to a study from Sweden, children suffer less stress if they split their time between their parents instead of living with only one.

The study examined almost 150,000 12-year-old and 15-year-old children and their reports of psychosomatic symptoms, such as dizziness, feeling tense, lack of concentration and headaches. The children with the most symptoms lived with single parents. The ones who split their time between both parents had considerably fewer symptoms, and the ones who lived in nuclear families had the fewest. The research also reported that girls had more symptoms than boys and were more likely to feel sadness while the biggest overall problem was with sleeping.

Researchers pointed out that children who regularly saw both parents might have access to broader resources. Furthermore, parents and children could bond more effectively due to seeing each other more regularly. In Sweden, joint physical custody among children of divorced parents has increased from 1 percent to 40 percent since the 1980s. However, in the United States, according to the founder of the National Parents Organization, the number is below 20 percent.

With this research in mind, divorcing parents may want to try to arrange joint physical custody for their children. In some cases, one parent may try to insist on sole custody with visitation for the other parent. However, even if the parents agree on joint custody, an attorney may be helpful. A formal legal arrangement might help protect a parent and a child if there are changes in circumstances, or an attorney may be able to anticipate potential pitfalls in a custody agreement.

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