Child's developmental needs vs. 50/50 custody

Normally, with younger children the parent that has been the primary caregiver would maintain primary physical custody, even with joint custody. As the child gets a little older the time with the other parent can increase until it is truly 50/50.

I believe that 50/50 is the best alternative for the child in most cases, as long as there is no abuse. Though your ex may have been a lousy wife, does not mean that she is a lousy mother. The child should not lose one parent’s time and attention simply because the parents are not together…
Although in the interest of stability and routine, it’s better to have one parent with primary physical custody, unless both homes have the same “ground rules”, boundaries…

My stepsons take advantage of their 50/50 custody in that they do what they please at their mother’s home but with that also means that they also “take care of themselves”, as in fixing whatever they are able to eat and in charge of reminding each other to brush their teeth. At our house they get to be kids because they know that stuff is taken care of. Their clothes get washed, they get fed, and they have rules, boundaries, bedtimes…they also are being taught responsibility a little at a time for their own actions. Instead of being responsible for everything they are only responsible for themselves. As they get older it’s becoming more evident that they appreciate the rules and boundaries even though they do not realize it shows.

EDIT: I’d also like to add that just because one parent is better suited to have primary custody does not mean that the child loves one parent more. And the child’s needs change as they get older so just because one parent has primary custody now does not mean it should always remain that way. Children love and need both parents in their lives. They did not choose to be in this situation and they do not understand. Most parents believe that the other will not be able to do a good enough job raising the child or they use the child against each other. The bottom line is that you still have to raise the child together, though separately. Would you argue over who bought the child a pair of shoes if you were still married? Would you not allow the other parent to take the child to the beach or on a special outing if you were still married? Joint custody with equal time works if the parents are able to discuss things without arguing and compromise for the child’s best interest.

Your child is likely never to remember any of this since she is so young. Keep that in mind when going forward with this…

I read recently that their is a study showing that 50/50 custody is not the best alternative for kids.

That is not to say I don’t think both parents need to be involved in the childs life, but the logistics add stressors to an already stressful situation.


There are mixed feelings on this all the way around. I think that depends also on whether or not the parents can get along well enough to put the child’s needs first. The situation becomes more stressful if the parents are always against each other regarless of whether or not they actually disagree.
My husband’s ex would disagree with anything that he suggested for a long time until he made her to see that under normal circumstances she would have agreed. Our boys have chosen to keep this arrangement.
There could never be a study that shows a best alternative because every person, every lifestyle, schedule, mood and situation is different. The bottom line is that it works for some families and for some it does not. There’s no easy way to determine and there’s no way to look into the future to see if it’s the best way to handle the situation. IMHO, it’s fair for both parents and for the child.

My 2 cents:

50/50 is the ideal situation. However there are many circumstances where it simply does not work as well for the children involved.

In a perfect world, each household would have the child’s own room, toys, clothing and such. Each parent would keep the child’s basic routine and parenting style and would communicate regularly with each other concerning the child. Ideally, the 2 homes would be near enough to each other not to cause huge travel times.

The above scenario is RARE in my opinion and experience.

Many times there is ill will between the parents and constant struggles in control and the kids get caught in the middle. One house feels like “home” because it is where the child is comfortable and familiar, while the other house is where they ‘visit’. Schedules and routines do get confused and hectic. When parenting styles differ, it become apparent REAL fast who the child can manipulate. It’s a ‘well Dad said I could, Mom said I could’ thing and it can cause a very stressful situation.

It’s one thing to stay involved in your child’s life. That can be done on a daily basis regardless of whether the children live with that parent. Phone calls, emails, taking them for icecream, to the park, going to their sporting events, school meetings and functions etc.

In my opinion, any parent that denies this extra time beyond ‘scheduled visitation’ does not have their children’s interest at heart. Unless other plans are in place, each parent should be open to visitation outside what is ‘scheduled’.

I think the schedule that is best depends on each unique custodial situation and the facts of each specific case.

A judge will hear all the facts and make the decision they believe is in the best interests of your child

The mediator’s job is not to make a decision for you but rather to help the two of you try and reach an agreement you can both live with.

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Helena M. Nevicosi
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I have repeatedly heard that 50/50 custody is best for a child as to allow both parents to be as involved as possible. Is that true?

How might a child’s early age (18 months) impact that? Would a mediator/judge likely push for one or the other to have the vast majority of custody in the interest of routine/stability/one-home, etc…?