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Is there a trend toward shared custody arrangements?

Our family law firm has observed a trend in child custody determinations toward shared arrangements. Considering that both parents may have to balance work and parenting obligations, it perhaps makes sense that no single parent is awarded primary custody. Yet a shared approach may require greater cooperation, as a recent case illustrates.

In the case, the child custody dispute arose not during the divorce, but several years later, when the minor child reached the age of going to school full-time. Up until the point, the father had parented the child every Monday through Wednesday, as well as alternating weekends. However, the approach of the school year prompted the mother to go back to court, seeking a modification of the child custody order.

When personal circumstances change, a family law court may be open to considering modifications. In fact, the lower court in this story agreed with the mother’s assertion that the child should have a single residence during the school week in order to provide continuity and stability. The father would have custody only on the weekends during the school year, with shared custody in the summers. However, the state superior court vacated and remanded that order.

On appeal, the father asserted that multiple factors were enumerated under the state’s child custody law. One of those factors referenced providing continuity and stability in a child’s environment. The father asserted that the child had grown accustomed to the shared parenting arrangement, and a disruption to that care pattern would have been far more disruptive to the child than any inconvenience resulting from commuting.

Source: The Legal Intelligencer, “Primary Custody of Child Not Required During School Year,” Feb. 3, 2016