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Shared parenting is a point of contention

Child custody cases usually boil down to one deciding factor -- the child's best interests. Though this may sound fairly straightforward to most Virginia residents, it is oftentimes difficult to determine what exactly constitutes the best interests of the child. There are various factors that go into the analysis, including the mental and physical health of the parents, the need for continuation of a stable home environment, the wishes of the child, among a variety of other considerations.

One consideration that gets factored into many of these cases is how time should be divided between the custodial and noncustodial parent. Many are now advocating shared parenting laws -- the argument being that it is in every child's best interest to spend equal time with both parents. Excluding only cases in which there are histories of abuse or substance abuse, these advocates oppose all laws that would award custody to only one parent.

According a group of advocates, there are three major reasons to consider shared parenting laws. The first is that traditional gender roles are fading in today's society and more men are taking on the role of caretaker. As such, laws should not so strongly favor female parents as being the primary caretaker. Second, the group of advocates point to poll data, which shows that a vast majority of Americans support, at least conceptually, the idea of shared custody. Lastly, there is the frustration felt by noncustodial parents to consider. Many noncustodial parents feel frustrated by the lack of power given to them and the disproportionate power given to the custodial parent.

Every child custody case is unique. Some noncustodial parents may feel frustrated by a feeling of disenfranchisement, leading them to seek out child custody agreement modifications. Others may be seeking a favorable outcome in a child custody arrangement that has yet to be decided on. In any case, it is possible to fight for the child's best interests equipped with the knowledge of a parent's rights and a strong legal strategy. Family law professionals may be able to assist Virginia residents who are struggling with child custody issues.

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

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