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Shared parenting gaining ground

A shift toward equal custody time for both parents is in the works as shared parenting advocates in Texas and around the country are encouraging several states to consider legislation that would change what some feel are outmoded laws granting custody to one parent, usually the mother. In 2013, Arkansas enacted a law that encourages "approximate and reasonable equal division of time" between parents in child custody determinations, in the process overturning previous court decisions that tended to hold shared custody in disfavor. Lawmakers in Minnesota and Florida had also passed similar measures, only to see them vetoed by the governors of those states.

Advocates of shared parenting argue that it is better for children to have equal time with both parents and note polls showing that the majority of Americans agree with them. They also argue that recent laws have placed too much responsibility in the hands of the custodial parent, not allowing the other parent to have input in important parenting decisions.

Opponents of shared parenting, on the other hand, worry that mandating such an arrangement will not give judges the flexibility to decide cases where equal time may not be logistically possible. They also point out that, in cases where there has been previous spousal or drug abuse shown by one parent, shared custody would most likely not be an appropriate result, a position with which shared parenting advocates are in accord.

Child custody decisions are never easy, and because so many strong feelings are involved, it may be hard for parents to think clearly enough to make good choices. A family law attorney may help a client work toward a custody arrangement that is truly in the best interests of the children.

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

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