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Are shared-parenting laws poised to become the new norm?

Learning to adjust to post-divorce life can prove to be especially difficult for those parents who were not awarded primary physical custody of their children. While they were once used to seeing their children on a daily basis, a predetermined visitation schedule may now be the new norm.

Interestingly, there is now a growing number of advocates across the nation calling on the legislatures in their respective states to enact so-called shared-parenting laws that -- with the exception of cases of involving substance abuse or domestic violence -- would essentially mandate that children of divorce spend equal time with both parents.

To illustrate, a law was passed in the state of Arkansas just last year mandating an "approximate and reasonable equal division of time" in child custody matters concerning divorced parents.

Similarly, state legislatures in both Connecticut and Maryland have each created special commissions to study the issue of introducing shared-parenting presumptions into law. 

Why then are shared-parenting advocacy groups suddenly gaining the attention of so many state lawmakers?

According to the National Parents Organization, a group focused on the promotion of those situations where ""both parents have equal standing raising children after a separation or divorce," the reason is threefold:

  • The number of affected parents has grown as traditional gender roles have largely disappeared.
  • Societal attitudes toward the idea of shared-parenting laws have changed considerably.
  • Non-custodial parents have become increasing energized and spurred to action by what they collectively view as inequitable treatment in family courts across the nation.     

Opponents of shared parenting laws have long countered that in order to protect the best interests of children, family court judges must have flexibility in setting custody arrangements and that shared-parenting presumptions would jeopardize this flexibility.

It will be interesting to see if the movement toward shared-parenting laws continues to gather steam. It should be noted that here in Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a measure just last year that called for the minimum amount of child custody to jump from 25 percent to 35 percent.

What are your thoughts on shared-parenting laws?

Those with questions or concerns regarding child custody, child support or other divorce-related matters here in Minnesota, should strongly consider consulting with an experienced attorney who can outline your options and enforce your rights. 

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

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