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Bill could shift approach to child custody

Parents tend to be laser-focused on figuring out custody matters during divorce, and understandably so — time spent with children is precious. Parents in Massachusetts may worry that their ex getting primary custody will not only limit their own parenting time, but will also not be in their child’s best interests. A new Massachusetts bill aims to address this common child custody worry. 

The Massachusetts House of Representatives recently pushed through a bill that would make shared custody the norm rather than the exception. Current standards still focus on making one parent a primary custodian and giving the other visitation time. Opponents of this type of arrangement often point out that it makes the noncustodial parent more of a visitor and less of parental figure. 

Shared custody involves giving children roughly equal access to both of their parents after a divorce. Multiple studies have shown that children tend to thrive in these types of custody situations, including a study from the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, which involved 150,000 people to reach this conclusion. Research from Nielsen also showed that shared custody promoted closer and more communicative relationships not only with parents, but with grandparents as well. This helps foster children’s emotional and behavioral growth. 

If passed into law, this bill could help shared child custody become the standard approach, although each family in Massachusetts should carefully consider what will work best for their own, unique situations. Ultimately, custody arrangements should center on one essential matter — the best interests of the child. While for some this may be shared custody, others may benefit from a different type of arrangement.  

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