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States weigh possibility of mandating equal parenting time

Divorce affects the entire family. Even though both spouses might agree that splitting up is the best option, their lives are subject to change. Of course, when parents are working through the divorce process, it’s critical to consider how the final agreement will impact their child or children. Ultimately, this means working toward a child custody arrangement and parenting plan that suits the need of the kids involved.

Coming to terms in custody negotiations is not always easy. Well-intentioned parents may not be able to find enough common ground. When custody can’t be settled out of court, a family law judge is likely to create an arrangement based on the terms of California family law. Ultimately, the judge will consider the best interests of the child when creating the plan, so one parent could end up with sole physical custody.

In a number of states, legislators are looking at the possibility of modifying how child custody cases are approached. Specifically, some lawmakers would like parents to have equal, shared custody of their children in most cases. Supporters of this particular change say that shifting family and gender dynamics call for laws to be updated. This is based on the idea that men might not be as likely to receive custody of children under current laws.

Of course, reform includes reasons to grant sole custody. For example, if a parent has a history of violence or substance abuse, then they aren’t likely to be awarded custody. Still, the change sets shared parenting as the default option, which impacts the long-held standard that has been used in most states.

A recent report from the USA Today doesn’t include California among the states seriously considering the change at this time. However, such reforms aren’t to receive universal support if they’re suggested in our state. Opponents have noted that requiring shared custody in most cases will eliminate the flexibility that judges currently have. Under existing rules, some observers note, each family’s situation is taken into account when formulating a custody and parenting plan.

Source: USA Today, “Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome,” Jonathan Ellis, Jan. 27, 2014