Research shows that children of divorced parents fare better when their parents live geographically close after a divorce, especially when kids are younger. When parents move away from each other, a child's well-being can have negative outcomes. In particular, children whose fathers live nearby have been found to display fewer behavioral difficulties and better social behavior than children whose fathers live far away. In other words, disrupting a child's day-to-day routine after divorce, which is already a huge upheaval, may be what you need but isn't necessarily in the best interests of your kids.
This research parallels tendencies by the courts to award or maintain joint custody in child custody cases. In Florida for example, "There is a presumption that shared custody is in the best interests of a child," Casey M. Reiter, Esq., who is based in West Palm Beach, told MyDomaine in a previous interview.
Similar studies around the world tend to illuminate similar findings. For example, The Guardian reported on a number of Swedish studies that looked at the well-being of children based on their living arrangements. Their research suggests that psychologically, "Children benefit from two parents being interested in them, and sharing residency encourages this," reports The Guardian.
How Close Is Too Close?
Co-parenting has taken on several trendy terms of late. For example, a 2018 article by NBC Better explained the concept of "birdnesting," where instead of requiring children to move between two different residences, kids remain in the familial home and parents rotate in and out. However, this arrangement has its limits, and experts interviewed for the article say this arrangement typically only works with amicable divorces and isn't a permanent solution.
"I’ve never seen ‘nesting’ go on forever,” says Sherri Sharma, partner at Aronson, Mayefsky & Sloan, LLP, a matrimonial law firm in NYC, in an interview with NBC Better. “A few months is okay but for longer periods (beyond six months), I think the uncertainty of not knowing what it will really be like to have separate homes can be confusing or anxiety-[inducing] for children.”
When Staying Together 'For the Kids' May Do More Harm Than Good
On the other hand, for parents thinking of staying together for the kids' sake, experts say you might be doing more harm than good. In an interview with Goop, psychotherapist Dr. Marcy Cole said children do not thrive emotionally or truly feel “at home” when exposed to chronic conflict, estrangement between parents, or disengaged and dysfunctional role modeling. "Under those circumstances, assuming both parents remain emotionally available to their children, divorce (albeit not ideal) can actually be the most beneficial road for the child’s optimal well-being," Dr. Cole tells Goop.
Viry G. Coparenting and Children’s Adjustment to Divorce: The Role of Geographical Distance from Fathers. J Divorce Remarriage. 2014;55(7):503-526. doi:10.1080/10502556.2014.950900
The Guardian. Is Sharing Residency Better for Children's Mental Health? January 24, 2016.
'Birdnesting' Gives Kids One Stable Home After a Divorce. Does It Work? NBC Better by Today. November 13, 2018.