Two generations of record high divorce rates have nearly cemented the image of the father who was only around on weekends as part of American culture. But this is quickly changing, as more and more couples in recent years are opting to co-parent their children, even after separating from their spouses.
Seeing the benefits of co-parenting, lawmakers from more than 20 states have sponsored bills to encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption, even if it’s against the parents’ wishes.
Earlier this year Kentucky passed legislation that made joint physical custody and equal parenting time standard throughout the divorce proceedings.
Florida’s state legislature unanimously voted to approve a bill to presume equal time for child custody setups, but this was vetoed by the governor.
In Michigan, local lawmakers are looking at a bill that would make all custody decisions focus on equal parenting time the starting point of the divorce proceedings.
Why the Push for Co-Parenting?
The push for custody arrangement can be traced to years of lobbying by fathers’ rights groups, who argue that thousands of men around the country feel alienated from their children and are overburdened by their child-support. The movement is drawing bipartisan support from lawmakers, who are responding to this call for gender equality and, for some conservatives, increasing frustration from men who feel they are being shortchanged by current custody laws.
Women as Instinctive Caregivers
For more than a hundred years, court decisions were guided by the notion that women were instinctive caregivers. This changed in the 60s and 70s when no-fault divorce laws paved the way for a wave of divorces and more women joined the workforce.
And so, custody rulings began to shift to the gender-neutral standard of doing what’s in the “best interest of the child,” leading the way for joint custody arrangements. Still, many judges continued to use their discretion to award physical custody to mothers, which critics and fathers’ rights groups believe reflect a lingering bias.
Is Co-Parenting Actually Beneficial?
Research shows that shared parenting has a significant impact on children; kids with active fathers tend to have better self-esteem and better grades. Studies on shared parenting across 15 countries also showed benefits that cover emotional, behavioral, and even physical health.
But researchers also point out that these findings need to be investigated further, as children who display the benefits of shared parenting may have been raised in environments where the parents actually got along despite being divorced. This situation may not apply to those forced into shared custody arrangement, especially when the separation involves abuse and neglect.
As Robert Emery, author of “Two Homes, One Childhood” and a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, points out, what’s important is not the amount of parenting time but the quality of parenting and co-parenting.
If you need legal advice on matters concerning child custody, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices to schedule a consultation with family law attorney Daniella Lyttle at (512) 215-5225.