Should children have free access to both parents after divorce?

What is the best outcome for children when their parents get divorced? This is a question that has been debated vigorously for at least a half-century. Early on, the assumption was that children needed to be raised by their mothers, particularly during their very early years. For better or worse, that model largely continues today, although it is now more common than in the past for fathers to be granted primary or sole custody.

Increasingly, courts are trying to keep both parents involved in their children’s lives after divorce whenever possible. But how does this work out practically? And should we be letting kids decide when and how much they want to see each parent?

According to a paper published by two men named William V. Fabricius and Jeffrey Hall, children of divorce want and need “open access to both parents.” In their 2000 paper, the two researchers noted that “Children repeatedly insisted that being able to see the noncustodial parents whenever they wished and being able to see that parent often made their parents’ divorces tolerable for them. It didn’t matter which parent was custodial; the children wanted to divide their time between their parents.”

Of course, parenting plans need to work for the entire family, and it isn’t always possible or practical to give kids unfettered access to both parents whenever they want it. Moreover, there are certainly cases in which one parent should not have liberal custody rights, including in cases of child abuse, domestic violence and drug/alcohol addiction.

That being said, some families are able to arrange their living situations so that children can freely contact both parents as desired. This kind of freedom may be more beneficial and practical as the children grow into teenagers.

No two families are the same, which means that each family needs to have a unique child custody arrangement in place. In order to make sure you have a parenting plan that works best for you and your children, please seek the help of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Deseret News, “Children of divorce want ‘open access’ to both mom and dad, studies show,” Lois M. Collins, Oct. 9, 2014

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