How does joint custody affect children?

Opinions from contributors:

The critical factor appears to be conflict between parents. With relatively little conflict between parents, joint custody is associated with better outcomes for children.

Joint custody is not all as pleasant as it seems. Some kids don't really care, but for kids like me who are use to being around both of my parents it is really hard to deal with. I am 17 and my parents got a divorce about 2 years ago. Since then I hardly ever see my dad even though my parents have joint custody. If my mom gets mad at my dad then she won't let us (my little sister, little brother,and me) go and spend time with him. She says that she only does it because she wants to make sure that he doesn't try to hurt us in any way, but I don't think that is the case. This also goes the same for my dad. If he gets mad at my mom he won't spend time with us he will just make up excuses. He does it to try and hurt my moms feelings but he is really hurting us. Going from one house to another is not fun either. Because you have to let your friends or any one wants to see you who house your staying at and that is a pain in the butt. So all these experts think they know every thing but they don't because half of them have never been in a situation like us kids have to go through.

It is easy to find research supporting both sides of this question. Joint custody (50/50) sounds great in theory but is difficult and often harmful to the child. Living in two different places makes it difficult for the child to find the stability they need. Where do they call home? It also takes two parents working together 100% of the time to establish consistent rules, moral values, and even things as simple as bedtimes. True joint custody may be appropriate in those cases where the parents stay good friends and divorce on good terms. In my case, my wife left the kids and I for a much younger lifestyle that is not kid friendly. I am so thankful I was awarded primary physical custody. Joint custody would not be in the best interest of the kids. I find it hard enough to deal with my ex-wife allowing our 4 and 8 year old stay up past midnight, watching R-rated movies with them, and trying to be more of a cool friend than a mom. It would be so much worse if custody was on a 50/50 basis.

Joint custody is the ideal when it is amicable. If all parents would behave in the way a responsible adult should, it would be a much happier and peaceful environment for children who have no choice in the matter.

There is no single answer to your question since there are many variations of joint custody and other factors that must be considered. Joint custody can mean joint legal custody and/or joint physical custody. It can mean the children live at one parent's home or move between both. It affects children differently depending on the child and the behavior of the adults. Joint custody can help to mitigate the impact of divorce on children or it can exacerbate it. To be at all successful the parents must have a congenial relationship and be dedicated to doing what's best for the children.