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Efforts to Promote Shared Custody Laws Spread across US

Families today look very different than they did a generation ago. Many parents choose to stay unmarried, same-sex couples can legally marry, adopt and divorce, and women are more likely to work outside the home. Unfortunately, the laws rarely change fast enough to reflect these cultural and familial shifts as soon as they should.

For instance, despite research showing the benefits of shared parenting agreements, most states do not have laws that presume shared parenting as the default for parenting (custody) plans. This includes California. However, this could be changing in the near future, as many states considered laws that promote shared custody arrangements in 2017.

What are the laws being considered?

As noted in this article in The Washington Post, various states have considered bills that encourage or presume shared parenting. In one state, a law passed that made equal parenting time standard for temporary custody orders during a divorce.

Other states have considered legislation that would direct courts to presume equal parenting time as a starting point during disputes, except in cases involving neglect or abuse.

Why is this important?

While many of the proposed measures have not passed, the fact that so many states are considering them is noteworthy. It suggests that equal parenting laws are gaining traction across the United States. 

It also reflects the growing awareness of the disadvantage fathers are often at with regard to custody and visitation rights. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many courts still presume that giving mothers primary custody and fathers visitation is in the best interests of the child.

What does this mean for other states like California?

At this time, the laws in California require a case-by-case analysis of each family's situation, in the event that the parties are unable to reach an agreement out of court. A presumption in favor of joint custody could level the playing field for settlement purposes. 

For the time being, parents who cannot work out custody plans themselves are effectively relinquishing control to their judge, who has considerable discretion in determining what is in the best interests of the child of the marriage. As such, it can be important to have legal support, whether your case ends up in front of a judge or you plan to resolve it outside of court.

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