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When parents divorce, their children do best if both adults continue to live in the same general vicinity, providing both mother and father with proximity to the child, new research shows.

That finding may seem obvious. But it runs contrary to a developing trend in courtrooms, say researchers at Arizona State University. If a custodial parent wants to move, courts are generally approving the relocation, believing that what that parent wants will also be good for the child, the researchers say.

The study indicates that courts should ''give greater weight to the child's separate interests'' and less weight to a parent's desire to make a move.

''Kids do better with both of their parents to provide some kind of loving environment for them,'' says study co-author and psychologist Sanford Braver. And that means both parents need to be available to the child, even after a divorce.

The report in the Journal of Family Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, states: ''In the great majority of these relocating families (82%), the move separated the child from the father, because either the mother moved away with the child or the father moved away alone.''

Young adults from divorced families in which one parent moved did not score as well on 11 out of 14 measures of well-being as those in which neither parent relocated, says researcher William Fabricius. Those measures include general physical health, life satisfaction and personal and emotional adjustment.

They also reported their parents had a worse relationship and were not as available to them for emotional support, compared with those young adults whose parents were not separated by a move.

Fabricius, also a psychologist, is surprised by the study's results. ''The fact that we found so many consistently poor outcomes for those whose parents moved is cause for concern.''

Findings are similar, he says, whether a parent moved away with the child or whether that parent stayed in place and the other parent moved. It is not the move itself that matters: ''It is the separation from a parent'' that matters, he says.

Braver is particularly concerned about the findings on the physical health of the young adults studied. ''There are implications for the future,'' he says. ''The effects may become exaggerated over time.'' Prior research indicates divorce can put children at risk for later stress-related illnesses, the report says.

The researchers surveyed 602 college students whose parents had divorced, dividing the students into subgroups that included various moving arrangements -- or no move at all.

The researchers emphasize their findings do not indicate a cause-and-effect relationship between a move and a child at risk.

Warren Farrell, San Diego-based author of Father and Child Reunion, says the study findings are important. ''When one parent is distant, he or she becomes a cardboard figure'' in the child's life, he says. ''The child ends up destabilized.''

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