Filing for divorce or legal separation is never an easy decision, especially when there are children involved. Parents may struggle when deciding whether to stay together for the kids’ sake, or to separate and start over with their personal lives. One of the hardest issues to negotiate is that of child custody and determining if it is better for the child to remain in the sole custody of one parent or joint custody. Studies show, however, that when children spend a significant amount of time with both parents, they have better development, behavioral, social and academic skills than kids who spend the majority of their time with one parent.

A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found, after reviewing more than 33 studies looking at sole-custody vs. joint-custody children, that kids who had access to both parents in a joint-custody situation had a higher self-esteem, and fewer emotional and behavioral problems. They also did better in school and had stronger family relationships.

More often times than not, kids who are placed in sole-custody arrangements are placed with their mothers. Studies also show the importance of kids having regular access to their fathers. Kids who have their fathers around are often more emotionally secure and comfortable in their surroundings. They are less aggressive, and are more likely to find successful careers, continue to higher levels of education and have an overall better psychological well-being. Children need support from both their mothers and fathers. Joint custody may be the best way to allow children to spend this time with both parents.