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I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

Shared parenting laws are popular, but they may backfire

Creating a legal presumption could limit flexibility for courts and families

Shared parenting has become a hot topic for debate among legal professionals and the general public. Following a report by the National Parents Organization that most states are failing in providing shared parenting laws, according to USA Today, many parents are understandably anxious about what outcomes they can expect during child custody hearings. However, while shared parenting laws have a lot of popular support, it is important to keep in mind that they also have their limitations and, in some cases, could actually end up backfiring against children.

A legal presumption

Shared parenting advocates say that child custody laws should be changed in order to create a legal presumption that an equal split in parenting time is in the best interests of a child following a divorce. In other words, a court would by default order a 50/50 split in parenting time unless it was given a reason, such as physical abuse or drug and alcohol problems in the home, to order an unequal arrangement.

While most people agree that having both parents in a child's life is usually in the child's best interests, there is still plenty of opposition to creating a legal presumption that equal parenting time is always best for the child. Such a presumption, according to the Washington Post, means that a court shifts its focus away from a child's best interests and instead towards ensuring both parents are treated equally.

Not all families are the same

The problem with limiting a judge's ability to decide on child custody matters is that every family is unique. In some cases, equal parenting time is just not in a child's best interests. While some children benefit from having both parents in their lives, others, including many special needs children, need stability in their lives and that stability can be disrupted by being shuttled back and forth between two houses.

Furthermore, while good parents should obviously be kept in their child's life, the sad fact is that absentee parents will sometimes insist on equal parenting time following a divorce for rather unscrupulous reasons. In these cases, unfortunately, shared parenting becomes little more than a bargaining chip to make the other spouse's life more difficult or to gain a more favorable divorce settlement.

Family law concerns

Child custody, as this story shows, is often the most difficult issue to resolve for many divorcing couples, especially during contentious divorces. While most parents want to protect their children from witnessing an acrimonious dispute, it is important that people going through a divorce do not sacrifice their own or their child's rights simply to avoid conflict.

In order to achieve long-term solutions, it is vital to contact a family law attorney today. An attorney with the right experience can help families come to an agreement concerning child custody matters so that children and their parents are both reasonably provided for following a divorce.

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