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State officials look at joint custody as solution

State officials look at joint custody as solution

Parents living in Illinois who have gone through a divorce in which a dispute arose over custody of a child understand that current laws typically limit judges to awarding custody to one parent. State officials around the country are reviewing the feasibility of joint custody as a means of maintaining the relationship between a parent and a child after a divorce or when unmarried couples break up.

The shift from the traditional view that child custody disputes should be resolved by granting primary custody to only one parent is fueled by advocates who claim that promoting a relationship between the noncustodial parent and a child is difficult under current law. They argue that giving recognition to the parental rights of both parties in child custody litigation through shared parenting is in the best interests of the child because it promotes and facilitates opportunities for both parents to make decisions related to raising a child.

The fear among some lawmakers that mandating an equal split of parenting time will give rise to an increase in child custody litigation in which parents bicker over the number of hours they or their former partners actually get to spend with the child. Some states have adopted laws that stop just short of mandating equal parenting time in favor of allowing a judge's discretion to prevail as long as the joint custody provides for a reasonably equal or approximately equal amount of parenting time for each of the parties.

Family law attorneys and legislators know that making the transition from sole custody as the custody arrangement of choice to joint custody will take time and a willingness of parents to work together. Parents with concerns or questions about joint custody or shared custody might benefit from speaking to an attorney.

Source: USA Today , "Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome", Jonathon Ellis , January 27, 2014

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