The days of one parent gaining custody of his or her children may be close to over, if advocates for shared parenting laws get their way in the U.S. A recent push in several states for divorced parents to share equal custody has energized advocates and forced lawmakers to consider new formulas and an entirely different mindset when deciding what to do with the children after a divorce.
The proponents of shared parenting are making an increasingly accepted argument that children’s best interests should be paramount, not the desires of one parent or another. In other words, decisions on custody should not exclusively be based on the merits of the mother or father as a caregiver. Rather, recent research that indicates children thrive when spending equal amounts of time with both parents should be heeded.
Shared parenting has its limits, of course, which even the most diehard advocates would acknowledge, such as a history of abuse by a parent or substance abuse issues.
State bar associations are chiming in with parenting groups in the U.S. to say that the time is long overdue for family law to be crafted in the best interest of children. Lawmakers in Arkansas apparently have listened to such logic, passing a law recently that called for “approximate and reasonable, equal division of time” for children between parents. This move was a clear reversal of Arkansas’ case law, which had long stated that joint custody was not a favored outcome in divorce proceedings, just one example of a sea change in thinking on custody that could be occurring.
The states of Connecticut and Maryland have task forces studying family law issues, including a focus on the question of whether shared custody is in the best interest of children. A bill in Florida recently passed with provision of alimony reform and shared parenting, even though the governor later vetoed it.
What other states are balking at are formulaic divisions of custody, such as the measure that Minnesota’s governor vetoed in 2012 that would have increased the minimum amount of custody for each parent from 25% to 35%. In addition, state bar associations have fought proposals mandating 50-50 custody, opting for recommended guidelines that judges could consider when granting joint physical custody.
Why the recent favor for shared parenting across America? Three primary reasons are given by parenting organizations that have pushed the legislation:
- The convergence of gender roles, which has led to many more men being caretakers
- Public opinion: polls indicate that a large majority of Americans support shared custody.
- The power granted to custodial parents by courts over the past 30 years, which has left non-custodial parents angry and frustrated, creating the climate for the current backlash.
Even if shared parenting is not right for all divorcing couples, state laws should reflect that both parents have equality in custodial arrangements, advocates argue. A system where one parent gets far more custody than another has encouraged widespread bitterness and made divorces far messier because the stakes are so high.
Author Bio: Greg Aziz is a freelance copywriter with a Journalism degree from University of Toronto and with over 5 years of experience writing for hundreds of companies from virtually any industry. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter, Google +, Linkedin, or Quora.