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Is shared parenting right for you?

48303881_S.jpgChild custody decisions involve a lot of questions. The guidepost should be the best interests of the child, but many parents may wonder what that means in the context of their divorce. After all, they choose to get married and they probably thought it in their best interests and still, there they are, in a Missouri family court, asking a judge to dissolve their marriage.

Shared parenting is a hot topic in the world of family law, and there is a bill pending in the Missouri legislature that would make shared parenting a presumption in all child custody determinations. The goal, proponents of the bill claim, is to achieve more equally balanced outcomes for most custody decisions. The question that remains is why does that not happen already.

The Missouri legislature has made it clear that "frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage is in the best interest of the child."

And a court has to specifically consider "Joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents," which awards time and decision-making authority to each parent. The new bill would make explicit that there is no presumption as to custody for either parent.

It would add the following language to the statute: "The court shall not presume that a parent, solely because of his or her sex, is more qualified than the other parent to act as a joint or sole legal or physical custodian for the child."

If the legislature inserts this language, the question would be how would these changes affect actual custody determinations? It is difficult to know, given the specifics of every divorce case make it complicated to generalize.

Shared custody, or joint physical and joint legal custody with nearly equivalent parenting time is always a possibly, and if you and your child's other parent can agree, such an arrangement is available today, no matter how the legislature acts on this bill.

Source: columbiatribune.com, "Shared-parenting bill supports children's best interests," Linda Reutzel, May 8, 2016

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