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Over 20 states considering laws for more equal child custody

In 2017, over 20 states -- Massachusetts among them -- considered legislation to encourage or even presume shared parenting from the get-go in divorce. This more equal approach to child custody would be legally presumed even when parents didn't agree, though of course would not apply in cases of abuse. Despite the predictable criticism that faces almost any proposed law, the legal trend toward collaborative parenting and shared custody seems only to be accelerating on a nationwide level.

Critics -- among them women's rights groups -- worry that these joint custody laws may result in the elimination of child support, which they say is still necessary given the gender wage gap. Opponents are also concerned that, notwithstanding reassurances to the contrary, the bills would remove the important safeguards that have been installed to protect against controlling and abusive spouses while taking away discretion from judges. Additionally, they claim these parenting bills would only apply to the approximately 10 percent of parents who are unable to reach parenting agreements, and thus are generally unnecessary since the growing number of divorcing parents already choose joint custody.

The last point is correct, at least in regard to the consistently increasing popularity of shared child custody. More parents are choosing near-equal parenting time in response to a host of studies and statistics that indicate the broad range of benefits to children. Among these are the demonstrably worse outcomes apparently linked to being raised in a single-parent household, such as a greater risk for becoming a high school dropout and a higher likelihood of incarceration.

Additionally, many states are beginning to more strongly promote mediation in lieu of litigation. Advocates hope to encourage parenting plans that carefully detail how and when each divorcing parent spends time with and takes responsibility for each child, a process that generally leads to a far more equitable parenting time division. For divorcing Massachusetts parents who have concerns regarding this or any issue relating to child custody, family law professionals in the Worcester area can off guidance and counsel.

Source: The Washington Post, "More than 20 states in 2017 considered laws to promote shared custody of children after divorce", Michael Alison, Dec. 11, 2017

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