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Shared parenting on the rise, but some oppose it

Texas parents who are divorcing and who must negotiate a child custody agreement might want to consider shared parenting as an option. This is increasingly popular as fathers' rights groups are supporting its expansion and many states are considering legislation that would make it the default custody arrangement.

A meta-analysis that examined studies of shared parenting in 15 countries found that it led to better behavioral, physical and emotional outcomes. Fathers also want to get more involved in their children's lives. Traditionally, courts worked from the assumption that women were better natural caregivers. That belief persists, perhaps unconsciously, despite the shift to the standard of the best interests of the child and results in women still getting custody most of the time.

Some legal and women's rights groups are among those that oppose default shared parenting. They argue that in cases where children benefit, it is when parents are stable and cooperating and shared parenting would happen even without legislation. They also have raised concerns that it would remove protections for women from abusive ex-spouses and that it could eliminate child support, which is important in making up for income disparity. These opponents feel that a better approach than legislation is to encourage alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation that will help parents work together more effectively.

Child custody negotiations can be challenging whether or not parents go into them seeking shared custody. It can be a difficult balancing act to weigh a child's need for stability with the need to spend sufficient time with both parents. However, parents can work with their respective attorneys to try to reach an agreement that suits all parties including their children. They may also want to create a parenting agreement that addresses any conflicts they anticipate arising.

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