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Keywords:

  • Divorce;
  • Children;
  • Living Arrangements;
  • Mediation

When parents separate, children typically enter into new living arrangements with each parent in a pattern determined most often by one or both parents or, failing private agreement, as a result of recommendations and decisions by lawyers, therapists, custody evaluators, or family courts. Most of these decisions have been based on cultural traditions and beliefs regarding postseparation parenting plans, visitation guidelines adopted within jurisdictions, unsubstantiated theory, and strongly held personal values and professional opinions, and have resulted since the 1960s in children spending most of their time with one residential parent and limited time with nonresident, or “visiting,” parents. A large body of social science and child development research generated over the past three decades has identified factors associated with risk and resiliency of children after divorce. Such research remains largely unknown and untapped by parents and professionals making these crucial decisions about children's living arrangements. This article highlights empirical and clinical research that is relevant to the shape of children's living arrangements after separation, focusing first on what is known about living arrangements following divorce, what factors influence living arrangements for separated and divorced children, children's views about their living arrangements, and living arrangements associated with children's adjustment following divorce. Based on this research, it is argued that traditional visiting patterns and guidelines are, for the majority of children, outdated, unnecessarily rigid, and restrictive, and fail in both the short and long term to address their best interests. Research-based parenting plan models offering multiple options for living arrangements following separation and divorce more appropriately serve children's diverse developmental and psychological needs.