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Physicists seek algorithm for child custody visitations

Scientists are always striving to use the tools of statistical physics to understand and regulate complex societal problems. In Georgia or anywhere else, can a mathematical algorithm be devised to regulate the visits of parents with children from multiple prior marriages? In an article in Scientific American, the attempt of one physicist was explored. He mostly studies black holes but he set out to see if his visitation schedule could be reduced to mathematical precision. The various child custody agreements of he and his girlfriend caused a conflicting web of inconsistent visits.

Because he had two ex-wives and children from each marriage and his girlfriend had her children, they wanted to have all children for one weekend and have one weekend to themselves. He assembled a research group of mathematicians and experts in complex systems. They analyzed a vast number of divorced or separated parents, each with former mates who may also have multiple marriages.

They studied a "spin-glass" system, which is made of many tiny magnets, each with its own spin, thus creating long-range interactions that might provide a working model. Did the group discover a mathematical model to resolve child visitation arrangements? No, not exactly. They could not quite fit in the girlfriend's kids, but they did find an algorithm that put his own children with him on the same weekends.

One physicist who was not involved in the study called it a "clean and elegant" resolution of a human social problem by scientific treatment. Actually, other physicists explained that it is still an open question whether physics can be applied to such social dynamics. The consensus seemed to be that human relations were a bit too unpredictable, but that this is nonetheless a developing science.

In the final analysis, the physicist admits that he still sits down with his ex-wives to work out a calendar for visitation in accordance with the child custody arrangements. He explained that perhaps when people live much longer and have many more divorces with increased complicating factors, an algorithm may have some utility. At this point, in Georgia and all other states the family law system of each state still struggles in a non-mathematical way to find the answers created by the social dynamics of divorce, custody and visitation.

Source: Scientific American, Physics Can Solve Child-Custody Arrangements, Clara MoskowitzIn, March 7, 2014

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