What’s Better for Kids: Sole Custody, or Joint Custody?

Child custody is often at the forefront of any divorce proceedings. Child custody may be an easy question to answer in some divorces, but it may be hotly contested otherwise. Traditionally, courts give preference to awarding custody to the mother. However, that doesn’t mean a father isn’t equally well-suited to care for the kids, or a joint custody arrangement might be ideal. Ultimately, what is better for kids: sole or joint custody?

Joint custody is an ideal arrangement.

Ideally, every divorced family would share custody. Joint custody is the best way for kids to feel that their family unit is somewhat intact, in spite of a divorce. Children in joint-custody situations still get to spend time with both parents, and theoretically have the best of both worlds. However, joint custody also carries a downside, so examine your options fully when you consider joint custody.

On the downside, joint custody means your kids don’t have a stable living situation. Going from one home to another on a regular basis can be upsetting for kids. Additionally, if kids have different routines at different places, they may find it difficult to adjust. Finally, kids may even use a joint custody arrangement against you, by playing one parent against another or by using the living situation as an excuse to make unreasonable demands.

Sole custody may be appropriate in some situations.

While joint custody theoretically gives kids the best of both worlds, and definitely provides both adults with the peace of mind of knowing they’ll be able to see their kids regularly, sole custody may be appropriate in some situations. In the event that one parent works long hours and isn’t at home to care for the kids, granting sole custody to the other parent may be preferable to leaving the kids in the care of babysitters or nannies.

Additionally, frequent travel may make it difficult for a parent to share custody, making sole custody an ideal arrangement. Finally, if one parent is violent or an otherwise inappropriate caregiver, it may be preferable to push for sole custody.

Ultimately, the decision to pursue sole custody shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, and it should be a decision that both parents advocate. If one parent is fighting for sole custody while the other parent argues for joint custody or even sole custody for themselves, the custody battle can become a long, drawn-out issue, traumatizing the kids and delaying a divorce.