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Shared custody may be best option for children after divorce

When actress Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from actor Brad Pitt, she requested full custody of the couple's six children. The reasons for this are unknown, but the couple's high-profile custody battle has reignited a debate in Michigan and around the country over what custody arrangements are best for kids when their parents divorce.

For the most part, mothers were in the past commonly granted full custody of children after divorce because family courts thought it offered kids the most stability. However, that trend has been changing. Barring a situation involving an abusive or otherwise unfit parent, experts now believe children are happier when they are allowed to maintain strong bonds with both parents. Kids learn different social skills from each parent, and depriving them of significant time with one of them can be harmful. This is true with both opposite-sex and same-sex parents. According to a 2007 study, children who live with each parent at least 35 percent of the time are less likely to suffer from depression, stress and other health problems.

Despite the endorsement of child care experts, shared parenting is still not as common as primary physical custody. A Pew Research survey found that only 22 percent of American fathers who don't have full custody of their children see them more than once a week. Some claim this is due to judicial bias toward mothers, while others claim fathers push for the arrangement in court. However, some states, including Missouri and Utah, have passed laws to make joint physical custody the preferred option for family courts.

Michigan parents facing a child custody dispute may want to meet with Oakland County child custody lawyers to discuss their situations. Legal counsel could negotiate for a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.

Source: TIME, "The Growing Case for Shared Parenting After Divorce," Belinda Luscombe, Sept. 29, 2016

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