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Shared parenting trend influencing lawmakers

For most parents in Virginia and elsewhere, parenting is a collaborative effort. In some way or another, each parent takes on a role to help parent the child. When this occurs, each parent seeks to maintain the same role they had during the marriage when divorce ensues. Typically, fathers were awarded visitation every other weekend or even just one weekend a month. However, this trend has changed in the recent years, as parents seek a shared custody arrangement.

The shared parenting trend has become so prominent that is has caused lawmakers in over 20 states to consider bills that would encourage shared parenting. In some cases, the bill would make shared parenting the legal presumption, even in cases where parents don't agree with it.

In some cases, states make joint custody and equal parenting time the standard when it comes to temporary order during divorce proceedings. In other states, equal parenting time is the starting point for any child custody issues being resolved during dissolution. The push for such legislature came from fathers' rights advocates who assert that men feel alienated from their children, as well as feeling overburdened by child support obligations.

Even though these legislative gains have made some traction, this does not mean they will apply when a final decision is made. Courts still focus on the best interests of the children, claiming that in some matters, working out a shared custody agreement can be difficult or even impossible.

Divorce requires spouses to make many challenging decisions. While some of these are straightforward, others are emotional and difficult, like those revolving around their children. Thus, those dealing with this or any other custody issue should take the time to understand their options and how best to protect their rights and the best interests of the child.

Source: The Washington Post, "More than 20 states in 2017 considered laws to promote shared custody of children after divorce," Michael Alison Chandler, Dec. 11, 2017

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