Equal Parenting: Child Custody Laws are Being Challenged
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Equal parenting, or 50-50 shared custody, is gaining traction in state legislatures as laws are considered — and in some states already passed — to direct judges to begin with the assumption that both parents in a divorce case are equally fit to raise the children. Then, in consideration of the benefits children receive from spending as much time as possible with each parents, work toward a 50-50 arrangement.
Missouri is one of the states currently considering such legislation, according to KMBC News 9.
On one side of the argument, advocates for updated laws are trying to change an outdated mindset in which mothers more often receive custody of children, even when the father is an equally fit parent. They also note that children of divorce who spend equal time with each parent fare better than children who do not.
Those who do not support the change suggest courts need more discretion in custody cases because of factors such as proximity of parents to each other, school attendance — the parents may live in different districts — and the affect such arrangements could have on determining child support.
In North Carolina, child custody is to be determined based on the best interests of the child. According to NC General Statute 50-13.2(a) states, “Between the mother and father, whether natural or adoptive, no presumption shall apply as to who will better promote the interest and welfare of the child. Joint custody to the parents shall be considered upon the request of either parent.”
Joint custody can refer to shared decision making, with one parent still having more custodial time with the child; or it can mean shared custody, in which parents share custodial time equally.
I’m not a legal expert, but it appears that in our state, the assumption in the courts — unless a parent requests otherwise — is that one or the other parent will be granted primary custody of the child.
However, while shared custody can be much more difficult to arrange, if it is better for the child as Robert E. Emery, Ph.D., suggests in Psychology Today, then doesn’t shared custody more closely meet the goal of making legal decisions that are in the best interest and welfare of the child?
Is it time for our state legislature to reconsider how our child custody laws are written?