Social Science Update: How do post-divorce shared residence arrangements impact children?

In 2010, social scientists conducted a study that reviewed two large scale Australian community studies. This looked at families that utilized shared care, which means that children spent at least 35% of their time in both homes.

The study found that in shared care arrangements, parents were more likely to be older, have higher levels of education, have higher incomes, have been married, live within a thirty minute drive of each other, share decision making, and communicate more often.

In this study, only fathers reported lower levels of conflict in shared care compared to other arrangements. Additionally, only fathers reported that the arrangements were more flexible in shared care. Fathers tended to have a more positive outlook about shared care, whether its flexible or rigid, than fathers with primary mother care arrangements.

The study found that the greatest growth in shared care is among litigated cases and that equal arrangements are more likely to last than unequal arrangements. Parents with shared care tend to communicate more and share decision making but may be less friendly than primary mother care parents. Children tend to be less satisfied with shared care than their parents, particularly when the arrangements are rigid and inflexible and focus on adult rather than child needs. Children also tend to prefer when they have a say in the shared care arrangements.

Overall, more shared care time does not mean better outcomes for children. It is the quality of the relationships surrounding the child, the parental alliance, and absence of safety concerns that are important. 

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