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Joint custody becoming more common

In previous years and decades, it wasn't uncommon for mothers to get full custody of their children after a divorce. However, there has been a shift toward shared parenting after a marriage comes to an end. Generally speaking, the courts now assume that parents should have joint legal custody of children.

Legal custody refers to a parent's ability to make decisions about a child's general upbringing. These decisions may include what religion a child learns about or where he or she goes to school. Residential custody refers to which parent a child lives with. Equal residential custody is rare, but that has more to do with logistics than attempting to shut a parent out of a son or daughter's life. The shift from granting mothers full custody to shared parenting reflects changing views on divorce, gender roles and what is best for a child.

As women began to enter the workforce in past decades, fathers became a resource to help mothers balance the demands of work and raising a child. As divorce became more common due to no-fault divorce laws, it wasn't as unusual to see parents get divorced and share custody of their children. With the encouragement of the courts, many couples are choosing to share custody without the need to go through a formal trial.

In most cases, joint custody rights protect the best interests of the child. This is because he or she won't have to choose between their parents or otherwise focus on anything other than having a good relationship with each one. An attorney may be able to help a parent obtain custody or other rights to a child. This might be done through settlement talks with the other parent, mediation or a formal trial to determine custody and visitation parameters.

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