Shared Custody and Stress on Children

By Attorney Gregg Herman
May 22, 2015

Milwaukee County Judge Michael Dwyer posted a link on the AFCC listserv to an article entitled “This Divorce Arrangement Stresses Kids Out Most.”  As reported in Time Magazine, “a new study, published Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, suggests that children fare better when they spend time living with both of their parents.”

This study is just the latest in a long argument over whether children are better spending time with both parents equally or having a primary home.  One side says that children need both parents equally.  The other side says that children need stability and too many transitions create stress.

In my opinion, both sides miss the central point.  Before getting there, however, it is necessary to remove certain circumstances, particularly domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness and geography (parents living too far from each other to make equally shared custody possible or practical).  The other common exception deals with teenagers with driver’s licenses.

Assuming, however, all else is equal, the central point is not the particular schedule, but the level of conflict between the parents.  In other words, children have less stress if their parents don’t fight and this factor trumps any particular placement schedule.

So while studies like this one are interesting, unless it studies the additional stress on children if the parents litigate over them, it misses a critical factor and is thus rather meaningless.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman S.C. in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.