Illinois parents who are ending their marriages may want to learn more about seeking joint physical custody. There are a handful of states that have adopted legislation dealing with child custody reform, and several other states are considering it.
Historically, courts leaned towards awarding the mother primary physical custody, and the father was left with a sometimes strict visitation schedule. However, this is changing. Many research studies highlight the importance of both parents spending equal time and having a meaningful relationship with their children. These characteristics are considered highly beneficial for the child. Additionally, shared parenting plans are being implemented to help combat the increasing number of cases involving parental alienation. Proponents of shared parenting believe that it helps maintain the status quo by not depriving the child of meaningful interaction with a parent simply because his or her parents divorced. These proponents believe that it is in the child’s best interest to maintain continuous contact with both parents.
Child custody laws in several states have been changed to adopt this approach. Missouri’s law favors an egalitarian approach to child custody and visitation decisions. It also prohibits courts from awarding custody based on the gender of the parent or the child’s age. Arizona’s shared parenting law was passed in 2010 and focuses on custody and visitation while highlighting that parenting should be a joint effort regardless of how much time each parent had with the child. Not all states are in favor of making these changes, though, and the Florida governor has vetoed proposed legislation that had been passed.
Child custody can be a challenging part of divorce proceedings. Courts base their decisions on these matters on what would be best for the child, but in most cases the parents are in a better position to know that than a judge. When parents can communicate with each other, it may be advisable for them to enlist the aid of their respective family law attorneys in negotiating a parenting plan that works for all parties involved.