The Effects of Dual Residence Custody Arrangements on Children
Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former State Extension Specialist, Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Dual residence is a type of joint physical custody in which the child spends equal amounts of time living in each parent's home. For example, a child may live at mom's house for two weeks or a month, then dad's house for two weeks or a month. Dual residence arrangements can work well for some families, but may be very difficult for others.
A recent study that compared the
results of 33 studies of custody arrangements found
that, in general, children in joint custody arrangements
are better adjusted (better emotional adjustment, family
relationships, self-esteem, behavior, and adjustment to
the divorce) than children in sole custody. The joint
custody children in this study didn't necessarily spend
equal time living in both parents' homes, but most spent
at least 25% of their time with each parent and spent
substantial time living with each parent. However, other
research has found that if there is a lot of conflict
between parents, then joint custody may not be a good
arrangement for children.
A study of adolescents with divorced parents found
that adolescents with dual residence arrangements were
more satisfied with their living arrangement than
adolescents who lived primarily with their mothers or
fathers. Most adolescents were functioning normally,
regardless of whether they lived primarily with their
mother, primarily with their father, or spent equal time
living with both. When there was conflict between
parents, the adolescents who spent equal time living
with both parents were more negatively affected by the
So, some issues to consider in deciding whether or
not to pursue a dual residence arrangement are:
- The level of conflict between parents. An equal time arrangement may not be optimal if there is a lot of conflict between parents. Parents need to be able to communicate and cooperate with each other for this type of arrangement to work well.
- The child's level of adaptability to change. Equal time arrangements work best for children with a flexible, adaptable temperament.
- The child's age. For preschool-age children, it may be difficult to make frequent transitions between homes. However, it also may be difficult for a preschool-age child to maintain a close bond with a parent he or she doesn't see for a long time. When adolescent children are involved, it is important to consider whether their activities will be monitored in both homes. It is important for adolescents to be accountable to a parent who knows where they are and and what they are doing at each home.
Bauserman, R. (2002). Child adjustment in joint-custody versus sole-custody arrangements: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Family Psychology, 16, 91-102.
Maccoby, E. E., Buchanan, C. M., Mnookin, R. H., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1993). Postdivorce roles of mothers and fathers in the lives of their children. Journal of Family Psychology, 7, 24-38.
Last Updated 05/12/2009