New Study Finds Overnights with Fathers Best for Children

Divorce is hard. Divorce where minor children are involved is harder.

As divorce attorneys, child custody disputes often become the most contentious issues that we face.  Of course this is understandable. When parents divorce, they have to face the reality that they will no longer be with their children 100% of the time. This is a hard pill to swallow for almost every parent, and it seems to be more difficult the younger the children are.

Often, each parent becomes stuck in the mindset that the children are better off with him or her, and 50/50 custody quickly becomes an unacceptable proposal. Unfortunately though, many times this is because the parents are caught up their own feelings about their soon-to-be ex-spouse, and forget to consider what is really in their children’s best interest. 

In California, the California Family Code provides a statutory framework for child custody matters. Courts are directed to consider what custodial arraignments are in the best interest of the children. The Court’s goal is typically to get the parents to share as close to 50/50 custody as possible, so long as it is in the children’s best interest. More specifically, California Family Code §3020(b) states as follows:

“it is the public policy of this state to assure that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy, except where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child, as provided in Section 3011.”

A new study from Arizona State University, published on February 2, 2017, may help divorcing mothers feel better about giving up more time with the children to their fathers. The study is titled “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” According to the study, the answer is yes.

The study found that children benefit from time with both parents, including sleepovers at each home. More specifically, the study found that having overnight visits with both parents benefited both the father-child relationship AND the mother-child relationship. Children with equal overnights with each parent showed the strongest relationship with both parents when they were grown.   Ultimately, having positive relationships with both parents as young adults sets children up for better stress-related physical and mental health for the children later in life- surely something any parent would want for their children.

In closing, remember this: Just because your co-parent doesn’t parent the same way you do doesn’t mean that he or she is a bad parent. As hard as it may be, always try to consider what will be in your children’s best interest as you navigate through your divorce. As hard as your divorce is on you, it is just as, or even more, difficult on the children. Keep in mind that the small choices you make now may have a huge impact on your children later in their lives.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding property division and trust accounts. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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