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Several decades ago, it was typical for a family court judge to rule that the mother is the default parent and that fathers would be awarded the right to visit their child on a set schedule. That approach has been revised over the past few years as more courts are considering the merits of shared child custody. Pennsylvania has its own laws that do permit joint custody.

Several states are working to revise custody laws that favor the input and value of both parents regardless of the relationship between the two parties. While some states have been successful in ensuring that courts automatically assume that shared parenting is the best option for children, other states have struggled to enact the laws that would make such assumptions the default in situations where doing so does not present a danger to the children involved. The work of fathers’ rights and parenting organizations have been credited with the push to revise these important laws.

Judges used to award primary custody to mothers based on the belief that mothers were the more nurturing parent. However, recent studies have concluded that fathers are just as important to children, and children who are granted more equal time with both parents tend to live more productive lives. There are opponents who claim that these changes may lead to a continuation of abusive situations. They also fear that shared custody will eliminate the need for child support, which is often seen as a vital means to equalize the lower salaries women have traditionally earned.

While some states have successfully changed their approach to deciding child custody arrangements, others have passed legislation that require a judge to write out his or her decisions when awarding custody in a certain manner. It is believed that doing so will aid parents in understanding the reasoning behind the order. Pennsylvania parents who are struggling to arrive at an agreeable parenting plan may seek the input of a family law attorney in order to ensure that the needs of their children are being met in the best manner possible.

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