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Advocates want automatic shared custody in divorce cases

Family law advocates in Georgia and around the country are arguing that children of divorced parents benefit from equal custody arrangements. Many are pushing for laws that would prohibit one parent from being awarded sole custody, with exceptions in cases where one parent has a history of abuse or substance abuse. Legislators in Connecticut and Maryland have created committees to study these and other family law issues, and reports are due to be issued soon.

According to the founder of the National Parents Organization, the increasing interest for shared parenting laws results from three main reasons. First, gender roles have changed within the last few decades, as women are no longer automatically the primary caregivers in a family. In the meantime, public support of the shared parenting concept has increased. Finally, giving one parent custody over the children gives that parent certain powers over the other, which often leaves the non-custodial parent frustrated and results in arguments.

Arkansas passed a law in 2012 that contains language requiring the "approximate and reasonable division of time" between parents in child custody orders issued during divorce proceedings, marking a significant reversal from prior case law. Similar legislation was passed in Minnesota and Florida only to be vetoed by the states' governors.

When parents decide to divorce, agreements regarding child custody, support and visitation may be difficult to reach. Parents who do not receive custody of their children may feel cheated or powerless. However, while divorce can be hard on the entire family, it is the children who may suffer the most. An attorney with experience in family law matters may be able to help a parent negotiate an appropriate custody arrangement as part of an overall divorce settlement.

Source: USA Today, "Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome", Jonathan Ellis, January 27, 2014

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