Traditionally, mothers typically received primary custody of children after a divorce. In many instances, fathers would only get to see their kids every other weekend. This would leave many fathers in the difficult position of trying to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children as a part-time parent.
Fortunately, this trend has been changing in recent years. An increasing number of couples are agreeing to joint child custody arrangements that share parenting responsibilities much more equally. Last year, more than 20 states, including Florida, deliberated on bills that would make shared parenting the established legal norm.
While Florida's equal child custody bill was overwhelmingly passed by the state legislature, it was vetoed by the governor. However, there is clear movement towards making this the legal standard in our state. There is a growing acknowledgement that barring extenuating circumstances such as an abusive relationship, it is in the best interest of the child to spend quality time and have a meaningful relationship with both parents.
Pros and Cons to Making Joint Custody/Shared Parenting the Legal Standard
While moving toward a standard of shared parenting and more equal joint custody seems to make sense on many levels, the movement also has its detractors. There is currently an intense debate regarding this issue amongst advocates and opponents of shared parenting.
Proponents of joint custody arrangements highlight the following benefits associated with allowing both parents to be equally involved in their children's lives:
- Joint custody allows children with two fit parents to benefit from the varying contributions they will receive from each parent
- Moving toward a shared parenting model more accurately reflects the way many modern families function, since fathers are shouldering a larger share of the parenting responsibilities in two-parent homes
- Shared parenting replaces the "winner take all" approach associated with awarding one parent full custody with a healthier message that "both spouses will still be parents, and both will play an important role in their children's lives"
- Research has found that children raised in single-parent homes (without shared custody) have a greater risk of dropping out of school or becoming incarcerated
- Shared parenting can give both parents the time to focus on personal goals such as returning to school to further their career or investing in personal relationships that will make for a more successful transition to post-divorced life
Those who oppose this movement towards shared parenting have made the following arguments in support of their views:
- Stricter laws calling for joint custody as the legal standard may erode important protections against abusive or controlling former spouses
- Judges may have less discretion in determining what is in the best interests of the child (note: you can make this same argument by establishing sole custody as the legal standard)
- These laws are unnecessary since the majority of divorcing parents are now choosing joint custody, and this would only apply to the small percentage of families who can't agree on shared parenting plans following a divorce
- Joint physical custody may eventually result in the elimination of child support in some states, which would reduce the assistance provided to many women who still face unequal pay in our workforce
Shared Parenting Laws may also Encourage an Increase in Amicable Resolutions to Divorce
There will always be couples who are unable to agree on how to resolve the important issues in their divorce. In these situations, a contentious contested divorce that must be settled in court is inevitable. However, there is a growing acknowledgement that this isn't the best way to resolve a divorce, and an increasing number of couples are pursuing more amicable approaches.
Divorce mediation is an ideal alternative if both spouses can work together amicably to resolve the issues in their divorce with the help of a neutral third-party mediator. Collaborative divorce is another option that is similar to mediation, but both spouses are represented by an attorney in this process. Both of these approaches involve working together amicably to settle the divorce without the need for court intervention.
The movement towards joint custody and shared parenting will hopefully encourage a larger number of couples to try to resolve their divorce using one of these amicable approaches before they rush into court. Shared parenting will require both spouses to work together closely on parenting issues after the divorce, and mediation can help create a framework for this future collaboration.
Contact our Sarasota Divorce Lawyers for Help with Your Divorce and Custody Case
The family law attorneys at Syprett Meshad have been helping individuals in the Sarasota area with divorce matters for nearly 50 years. We know the complex laws that apply to these cases, and we can help you craft a child custody agreement that will allow both parents to maintain a meaningful role in your children's lives. Ultimately, this will be what is best for your kids as they adjust to post-divorce life.
Please contact Syprett Meshad using the form on this page or call 941-365-7171 today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Sarasota, Bradenton and the surrounding areas of Florida.