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More states ruling in favor of shared parenting, child custody

If some family law advocates have their way, divorcing parents in Texas and around the country may serve as legally equal partners in the raising of their children. The idea of shared child custody, not just on paper but also in terms of responsibilities and parenting time, seems to be gaining ground. Some feel this is a reflection of the changes in gender roles over the past few decades, creating a situation in which many noncustodial parents chafe at the limited roles allowed them by the courts.

Critics of the development say that a strict 50/50 split of parenting isn't always possible and urge judges to be flexible in ordering such an arrangement. Also, an equitable split of child custody is not seen as appropriate in every case, even by its supporters. The shared-parenting concept is tempered by the caveat that single-parent custody should not be allowed in cases where a parent has a history of inflicting physical or emotional abuse or abusing drugs or alcohol.

Lawmakers in several states are considering legislation that would further the concept of joint custody. As an example, legislators in Connecticut and Maryland have created committees to research these issues, with reports due to be issued soon. Other states such as Minnesota and Florida have passed custody reform laws only to see them vetoed.

Whether joint custody is sought or not, parenting time makes a big difference in the lives of both children and their parents. A family law attorney may be able to help a parent going through a divorce negotiate a custody arrangement that will take into account the child's best interests.

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

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