In the past, when a couple went through a divorce, many fathers lost a significant amount of time with their children. In many cases, the mother would look after the child on a day-to-day basis, while the father would only spend time with them every other weekend. In 2017, this is no longer the case. Many parents have decided to equally share in the responsibility of raising their children by co-parenting. This shift in child custody and support may mean big changes for families in the coming years.
This past year, over 20 states considered bills to make co-parenting a legal presumption, or encourage shared custody in some way or another. This stems from the efforts of fathers' rights advocates who have said for years that fathers feel overwhelmed by child support and completely alienated from their kids. Co-parenting also stems from the idea of gender equality or the idea that both parents have the right to play an active role in their child's upbringing. Some states are also encouraging mediation, in which parents come up with a plan that clearly states each parent's responsibilities when it comes to raising their child.
As more states consider laws that require joint physical custody, there are some concerns from women's rights groups. For one thing, these critics worry that with these new laws, judges will not have the discretion they once had when determining what is in the best interest of the children. This can be problematic, particularly in cases in which one partner is abusive. Some critics also worry that these new joint custody laws may lead to eliminating child support altogether, which can be an issue for women who traditionally make less money than men outside of the home and do more labor at home for no pay.
However, supporters of this shared parenting presumption say that these laws are mainly directed toward capable parents who deserve the chance to be in their children's lives. Many studies have also confirmed that there are significant benefits to co-parenting. For example, children who have fathers who are involved in their lives tend to get better grades and are less likely to get into trouble. Overall, it appears that shared parenting is here to stay in the U.S., as it is beneficial to the children to have both parents equally involved in their upbringing.
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