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Is favoring equal custody in the best interests of children?

Various states, including Florida, have enacted laws which favor granting parents equally shared custody after a child’s parents decide to go their separate ways. This arrangement will not generally be applied in special cases, including those involving domestic violence. However, a presumption of shared child custody arrangements is increasingly affecting a number of American families.

There are unquestionably certain benefits associated with such a presumption. Chief among them is arguably that both men and women will be consistently given an opportunity to parent their children, regardless of any gender biases that may affect family law judges. However, a number of drawbacks also impact the practical implementation of such a presumption.

It may be in the best interests of many children to be parented equally or in significantly shared ways by both of their parents. But such an arrangement is not in the best interests of every child. For example, children whose parents’ relationship is marked by high levels of conflict may be better served if one parent takes primary responsibility for their welfare.

It is the responsibility of family law judges to make determinations in the best interests of children whose parents are no longer residing with one another. A presumption of shared custody may help to solve some disparities present in the current family law system. However, this presumption may not always serve the best interests of affected children. As a result, the implementation of this presumption may potentially undercut the core principle of the system in certain child custody cases.

Source: NPR, “Push To Change Custody Laws: What’s Best For Kids?” Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 26, 2014