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Shared child custody can help foster parent-child relationships

Those going through divorce in Pennsylvania might benefit from a child custody model that emphasizes both parents' relationships with the children. Shared parenting, a model that is popular around the world but is just gaining traction in the United States, focuses on providing both parents with equal time and decision-making authority in relation to their children.

While this model may seem in many ways to reflect common sense, family courts in the United States often default to awarding primary child custody to the mother of the children. In over 80 percent of child custody cases in the country, sole custody of the mother is the outcome. When fathers actively petition for custody, this number drops sharply, indicating that this is in many cases a default assumption.

Many advocates have urged that shared parenting be instead considered a default expectation, and over 25 U.S. states have considered legislation to direct their family courts to do so. This comes for several reasons: shared parenting has been shown to be highly beneficial to children's physical and psychological health in a number of reputable studies. In addition, it allows more women to enter the workplace while helping fathers to maintain close and loving relationships with their children.

Shared parenting arrangements can also help to support better co-parenting between divorced partners. By promoting the full involvement of both parents in the lives of their children, shared parenting expectations can help to prevent parental alienation and other negative consequences for the parent-child relationship that could follow divorce.

Parents considering divorce can consult a family law attorney about their next steps forward. Even in the most amicable of splits, it can be important for each parent to have a family lawyer to represent their interests in child custody, child support and related matters. An attorney can help to develop parenting plans that meet the guidelines of state law and protect the best interests of the children.

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