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Officials determining if joint custody should become law

Tennessee parents may be interested to know that more state lawmakers are advocating for joint custody laws since they believe that children benefit more when both parents are involved in the child's life. However, opponents of shared custody laws maintain that judges need flexibility when making custodial decisions since shared custody many not be appropriate in certain situations.

According to the founder of the National Parents Organization, there are three primary reasons for lawmakers to consider shared-parenting laws. First, more Americans recognize the benefits of having both parents involved and are therefore in favor of sharing custody. Second, judges have been awarding custodial parents with more powers and advantages over the past 30 years than non-custodial parents. Finally, gender roles are no longer as rigid as they were in previous decades, and many more men are assuming the role as the primary caretaker.

Opponents, however, argue that law-mandated shared custody would promote more conflict between parents who want to make sure they are getting their fair share of time with the children. Although advocates are aware that shared custody may not be appropriate in all cases such as when a parent has a history of substance or domestic abuse, a director from the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assualt argued that in many cases, many parents would not be able to contest joint custody awards mandated by law because reports against the abusive partner are not always filed.

Some states like Connecticut have decided to study issues in family law, such as if presuming shared custody is really in the best interest of the children. However, child custody and child support payments can still be some of the most contentious areas during a divorce. A family lawyer might be able to help parents enforce a joint custody order or help parents seek a reduction in child support payments if the custody arrangement changes.

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

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