The issue of divorce is something that affects a huge portion of families across America. It is often a sensitive and emotionally charged topic, especially when children are involved. A recent article by Florida Today discussed the potential trend among states to favor custody arrangements in which parents share equal custody. According to the article, lawmakers from states across the country are re-evaluating their child custody laws in light of advocates who say that parents who are divorced should share custody of their children.
Best Interest of the Children
Those who say that shared custody is ideal argue that it is in the best interest of the children to spend an even amount of time with both of their parents. They say that the only situations in which custody should be awarded to one parent are those involving abuse or substance abuse.
Those against a general rule of shared custody think it is wise to give judges wide discretion in determining custody orders that serve the best interest of the children involved. Opponents say that the best interest of the children should always be of primary concern, over the interests of either parent.
Changes in State Law
States across the country are responding to advocates’ concerns in various ways:
Arkansas passed a law that there should be an approximate and reasonable equal division of custody between divorced parents, which was a reversal of the case law in the state, which previously said that shared custody was not a desired outcome.
Connecticut formed a task force examining family law issues, among which will be whether the state should implement a law that creates a presumption of shared custody being in the best interest of children.
Maryland created a Commission on Child Custody Decision Making last year, and its report is expected by the end of this year.
Here in Florida, a bill regarding alimony reform and shared parenting passed, but then was later vetoed by Governor Scott.
Why the Move toward Shared Parenting?
The article reported that the founder of the National Parents Organization, which supports shared parenting, cited three main reasons for the call for custody laws that favor shared parenting:
- Gender roles have merged over the years, and more fathers serve their children as caretakers than in the past.
- Public polling shows that the majority of American citizens support the idea of parents sharing custody.
- Over the course of the last three decades, courts have generally awarded custodial parents more power over the affairs of their children, causing somewhat of a backlash among non-custodial parents.
While an arrangement involving shared custody is not ideal in every situation, advocates say that state laws should still stand for the proposition that both parents are equal, further saying that an arrangement involving only one parent being awarded custody just fosters conflict and resentment.
Still, opponents offer the other side of that situation and say that a perfect 50/50 split in custody may encourage friction between parents who track their custodial time down to the second to ensure it is equal. Further, those opposing mandatory shared parenting point to situations of domestic violence in which victims may not have the ability to properly protect themselves or fight a custody battle.
If you or someone you know is involved in a divorce or custody proceeding in Florida, an experienced family law attorney can discuss your case with you and advise you of your rights. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.