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More states promoting shared parenting

In Texas and around the country, the majority of custodial parents of children of divorce are mothers, and this is borne out by census statistics. However, a movement is afoot to increase the amount of time that fathers get to spend with their children and ultimately achieve equal parenting in divorce cases.

One court study found that in Nebraska, almost three-fourths of noncustodial fathers saw their children for less than six days per month. A recent ranking of state custody statutes by the National Parents Organization gave 25 states a grade of D or less when it came to shared parenting, and no state received an A. These statistics are particularly noteworthy in light of a recent study that found that children in shared custody arrangements are less stressed than those living with just one parent.

A number of states are pursuing legislation that moves toward more shared parenting. A bill already passed in Utah increases the standard noncustodial parent schedule from 80 overnight visits per year to 145. Proposed legislation in Maine, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas would require some level of consideration of the value of shared parenting when judges review any custody order. The Texas bill would impose a 50/50 custody arrangement as a presumed order that could only be revised based on evidence that it would not be in the best interests of the child.

Too often, custody battles are fought because of disagreements between the parents rather than because of concerns about the children. A parent who is contemplating a divorce may want to consult an attorney to discuss the options regarding custody. In some cases, it may be possible for the attorney to assist in negotiating a shared parenting arrangement that can obtain court approval.

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