The cases for and against presumption of shared child custody

Just as many adults greatly benefit from being one-half of a romantic partnership, many children benefit from either living in a two-parent home or having both of their parents involved in their lives equally. However, this kind of family structure does not work best for everyone. Many adults are happier and healthier alone and many single parents provide superior care to their children than many parents who remain married or have joint custody of their children.

Family court judges are bound to uphold the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. However, some state legislatures are contemplating and have even passed laws designed to presume that parents will receive shared custody of their children in the event of a split. This presumption will be upheld unless evidence of abuse or some other detrimental factor would lead a judge to believe that the child in question would be better off with one parent solely or primarily.

Advocates of this approach applaud the idea that the interests of both parents in raising their children, and children in having access to both of their parents, will be presumed in the event of any child custody dispute. Critics of this approach are concerned that high-conflict relationships between co-parents may harm certain children if those parents are forced to share and communicate regularly.

Shared custody is often the best arrangement for a child, but it is not always so. If presumption is to be the law of the land, then true discretion must be given to judges in cases involving abuse, high-conflict and other potentially harmful factors. Shared custody should only be the arrangement ordered when it will be in the best interest of the child in a broad sense.

Source: Huffington Post, “Equal Child Custody Revisited,” Henry Gornbein, June 27, 2013

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