In an interesting article, USA Today details the progress of the shared parenting movement and how it may revolutionize family law.
Currently, most states give the trial court broad discretion to decide an appropriate custody award, typically ranging from sole legal and physical custody to one parent to joint legal and joint physical custody for both parents. The trial court must choose an outcome that furthers the best interests of the children after considering a list of factors. Some states, like Missouri, give a preference for joint custody.
Shared parenting seeks to simplify the custodial process and recognize the equal role parents have in raising their children by limiting the trial court discretion in custody arrangements – the parents would have coequal standing in both legal custody (where they must make decisions together as a team) and physical custody (where both parents would have the same amount of time in a calendar year). If the court found evidence of physical or emotional abuse, the court could move to a more unequal arrangement.
Much of the motivation for shared parenting comes from the changed reality of the modern family. Long gone are the days when the father was the sole breadwinner and the mother the primary caregiver; today, most households require two full-time working parents and the input of both parents in raising the children. If the reality has become that most intact families have a shared division of labor in both earning household income and caring for the children, that shared concept should continue after a divorce. Proponents of shared parenting argue that it makes little sense to encourage courts to adopt a custody schedule radically different than the norm prior to divorce, as it only deprives children of expectations of parenting time and encourages custodial battles where none would need to exist.
South Dakota, Minnesota, Arkansas and Massachusetts are just a few of the states actively considering legislation that would enact shared parenting laws.
While any change in the family law system will have its detractors, many legal experts see shared parenting as the future.
If you have questions about shared parenting, contact us – we can help.