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Shared parenting gaining momentum

Washington residents may be interested in a story concerning a movement in many states to enact legislation that would mandate shared custody between divorced parents. While many support these laws, others feel that they would limit courts and do a disservice to parents.

Advocates of the push toward mandated court-ordered joint custody argue that gender roles are changing. Men are now the caretakers of their children more than ever. Additionally, the public has shown in polling that they support such changes in the law. Having full custody with one parent can be a frustrating nightmare for the other who only has visitation rights. One father working to change the law argues that, even though he lives close to his children, he is limited to visiting them just a few times a month.

Some lawmakers agree. In Arkansas, a law was passed last year that requires courts to divide parenting rights in a reasonably equal way. Florida and Minnesota passed similar laws, but they were vetoed by the respective governors of each state. Other states are currently studying the possible effects of such a law. Opponents argue that courts should have the freedom to craft a custody arrangement as they see fit. Others believe that laws like this could make it more difficult for a parent to protect their children from an abusive or unfit spouse.

Whatever the outcome of this legislative activity, custody arrangements still remain a difficult issue for many couples. The emotions that go into a divorce can make negotiations and litigation over custody very hard on the spouses and the children. Mediation services may be helpful in finding common ground on parenting and other issues while reducing tensions and emotions.

Source: USA Today, "Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome", Jonathan Ellis, January 27, 2014

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