Should courts favor joint custody agreements?

Joint custody agreements are becoming more and more common in the United States, as parents and fathers in particular are taking a more assertive stance towards remaining involved in with their children even after a divorce.

Fathers rights groups have been campaigning for shared custody laws on the state level, asking family courts to create a rebuttable presumption of shared custody. This would mean that equal, shared custody is the default plan and that parents on either side would have to make a convincing argument to create a different custody arrangement. As in many areas of family law, there are some concerns about the impact this change could have on victims of domestic violence who might be afraid to face their abuser and may not have the resources to hire an attorney to help them argue their case.

In a case where there are no allegations of domestic violence and both parents are fit and capable of caring for the children, studies have found that spending time with both parents can be beneficial for kids. However, this can be met with a variety of caveats, such as the need for stability for younger children and the difficulty of managing the logistics of fully joint custody.

Child custody is one area where cooperation between the parents is essential in order to make the arrangement beneficial for the whole family. Some people find it helpful to set up expectations and ground rules that are a part of the custody agreement so that a co-parent is held to the standard of their initial promises even after the divorce is far in the past.

Source: NPR, “Push To Change Custody Laws: What’s Best For Kids?” Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 26, 2014.

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