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Study: Poor custody decisions made in high-conflict divorces

Parents who are involved in a highly contentious and bitter divorce often say and do things they wouldn't say or do under normal circumstances. After all, divorce is painful and it can make people angry, scared and combative.

However, once a divorce is finalized and everyone can move forward, this environment of high conflict often subsides. Unfortunately, if you or the courts decide matters like child custody based on the volatility during your divorce, you could be left with a plan that is not in your child's best interests, according to a study.

Conflict shouldn't dictate custody

The study examined the correlation between high-conflict divorces and child custody decisions. The study's author based her research on the fact that in 80 percent of court-ordered custody cases, a mother gets custody of the children while the father has periodic visitation.

This arrangement, argues the author, is the result of flawed reasoning.

Many people assume that preserving stability for kids during a contentious divorce is the top priority, justifying the decision to place children with one parent most of the time. There is also an argument that having kids go back and forth between Mom and Dad increases kids' stress, especially when parents are so combative.

However, this study, along with others like it, found that children are generally happier and more fulfilled when they have a meaningful relationship with both parents after divorce. This study also found no strong evidence tying conflict during divorce to poor outcomes for the kids.

What you can do

Parents fight during divorce, and these fights can get ugly. This is especially true when they are trying to "win" custody. However, rather than base the future of your custody arrangements on this one extremely difficult event, it could be in everyone's best interest to stay focused on life after divorce.

To protect the well-being of your children and your rights as a parent, you would be wise to examine and discuss with your attorney shared parenting arrangements.

With mutually agreeable parenting plans, firm boundaries and resources for addressing conflict, parents can secure a custody arrangement that preserves both parents' relationship with a child and, most importantly, puts their child's needs first.

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