After a divorce, is joint residential custody better or worse for the children?

Let’s indulge an analogy to answer this question.

Is sugar good for you, or bad for you? It depends upon the circumstances. An occasional slice of cake or pie is a safe and pleasant way to enjoy sugar. ‘Nothing wrong with that. Eating so much sugar that your teeth rot and you pack on 30 unneeded pounds is irresponsible and hazardous to your health. ‘Nothing good about that. Yes, you have the right to ruin your health with too much sugar, but that does not mean you have the right to expect everyone around you to endorse or accommodate your irresponsible lifestyle.

So is joint residential custody better or worse for the children? It depends on the joint residential custody circumstances. Assuming there’s nothing emotionally or psychologically off about a child, when both parents are fit (not abusive or neglectful and physically and psychologically able to care for children), loving and supportive, there to provide personal care and attention, have residences that are safe and hygienic, and can at least tolerate the exercise of joint custody with each other, joint residential custody is unquestionably best for children (the research is copious and only getting clearer). When one of the parents is unfit, disengaged, and lives in a pig sty and/or in his/her car, joint residential custody would clearly not be in a child’s best interest.

Parental rights are fundamental, God-given, human rights. But they are not a parent’s absolute inviolable rights. If a parent is not minimally fit to exercise custody of a child, the law provides that such a parent’s parental rights can be infringed, restricted, even terminated. This is why a court can award sole custody of children, if it finds that the parents are not both fit to exercise joint custody and/or if it finds that joint custody would not subserve the child’s best interest.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277


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