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Some Facts Behind New York’s Failing Shared Parenting Laws

New York’s F grade masks important strides in child custody law

As USA Today recently reported, New York was one of only two states, along with Rhode Island, to receive an F grade for its shared parenting laws in a recent study. The National Parents Organization gave the state its low grade due to a perception that the state’s laws and courts favor sole custody, often at the expense of the father, in child custody cases. While the failing grade may alarm some parents, it’s important to understand that the report may not be an accurate reflection of how child custody cases are determined nowadays.

Shared parenting advocates

Shared parenting advocates, such as the National Parents Organization, argue that courts should award custody of a child equally to both parents following divorce so long as there is no evidence of abuse or drug and alcohol problems.

Such advocates say that by ensuring both parents remain in a child’s life then that child has a lower chance of suffering behavioral problems later on. The latest report card, which gave most states poor grades for their shared parenting laws, reflects how few states have actually enshrined shared parenting into law.

Not all is what it seems

Shared parenting laws, however, are not necessarily as wise a course as they may first appear. As the Washington Post recently reported, enshrining a 50-50 split in parenting time into law creates a dangerous presumption: that the interests of parents should come before the child’s interests.

Instead, as the Post article points out, courts, including those in New York, have been moving away from typically awarding sole custody to the mother for some time now. Contrary to what many believe, there is nothing in the law that puts fathers at a presumed disadvantage in child custody cases. Rather, the courts have to determine what sort of custody arrangement would be in a child’s best interests. In some cases, such an arrangement may be sole custody, whereas other children may be better off in a joint-custody arrangement.

While in the past most courts assumed that sole custody to the mother was in the best interests of the child, that view is quickly changing. An indication of the change is shown by the fact that in the past decade sole custody to the mother no longer constituted a majority of custody orders, a situation that hasn’t happened in over a century.

Child custody issues

What matters most in determining child custody is showing that an arrangement will work in the best interests of the child. Parents who want to maintain custody of their children will need to prove to a court that their continued presence in their child’s life will help that child mature into a balanced and well-adjusted individual.

Making such a case, however, often depends on expert knowledge of child custody law and of how family courts typically function. As such, parents who have any child custody issue they need resolved should reach out to an experienced family law attorney. When it comes to such important matters as child custody, it is important to have professional legal counsel at hand to ensure one’s family law concerns are dealt with professionally and satisfactorily.