In most cases, when divorced parents share custody of two or more children, the kids transition between their parents’ homes together. Generally, children do better after divorce when they have each other.
However, no two families are alike. In some cases, children can better thrive when parents have a “split custody” (sometimes known as “divided custody”) arrangement. This involves each parent having sole or primary physical custody of one (or more) child.
Let’s look at some situations where split custody – at least for a time – may be the best arrangement for the family.
Extreme sibling rivalry or other behavioral issues
If you have two kids who are always at each other’s throats (sometimes literally), it may be best to try separating them for a time. This can give them space and time apart that can help them heal whatever rift they have. This is best done in conjunction with some therapy for one or both of them.
If one of your children has a serious behavioral issue that’s negatively affecting your other child(ren), it may benefit them to live in different homes. This can also be the case if one of your kids has a particularly negative relationship with you or your co-parent. Again, split custody can help ease the stress, but it should probably be accompanied by therapy.
A child with special needs or talents
If you have a child with a physical or mental disability, it may be difficult for them to move between homes. It can be best if the parent who’s better able to care for them or perhaps closer to their medical providers has custody of them. This can also allow the other child(ren) to get some much-needed time and attention from their other parent.
If you have a child whose extracurricular life is devoted to baseball, gymnastics, piano or other special talents, it may be preferable for them to live with the parent who is closer to their training facility, coach, teacher or other resources. Maybe they’re enrolled in a performing arts, STEM or another specialized school that’s near one parent.
No split custody arrangement needs to be permanent. However, if you think it’s worth considering, you may want to give it a try during the summer. It’s crucial, however, to make sure your custody agreement and parenting plan reflect the arrangement. With legal guidance, you can do what’s best for your family.