Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law

Will child custody reform benefit children of divorced parents?

Child custody law reform is currently being considered by more than 20 states, including Massachusetts. Noncustodial parents may be happy to learn that the proposed reform will bring about more parenting time. The National Parents Organization (NPO) says reform will make equal parenting the norm rather than the exception. Child custody rulings that are affected by abuse or drug dependency will naturally still occur when it is necessary to protect a child.

Recent research disclosed that children who spend most of their time with one parent showed higher stress levels than those who spend similar amounts of time with each parent. The NPO believes that current child custody rulings are often biased against fathers. Although shared or joint custody has increasingly been ruled in divorce cases over recent years, the goal is to order equal parenting time in all cases except for cases in which evidence exist to indicate that it would not be in the child's best interest.

A bill was presented in another state that mandates that courts must provide written justification if it orders that parents will have less than equal parenting time. It has been suggested that equal parenting time encourages cooperation and communication between parents, to the benefit of the children. Opposition to this reform maintains that it will reduce the discretion of judges and give power to abusive fathers.

Any Massachusetts parent who is considering divorce and is concerned about not getting enough time with his or her children may benefit from consulting with an experienced child custody attorney. Regardless of whether the laws have been reformed, child custody and parenting plans can be negotiated in mediation if a non-litigated divorce is chosen. If mutual agreement is reached in mediation -- in which each parent can be represented by his or her legal counsel -- the attorneys can draft a negotiated divorce agreement and present it for the court's approval and the final divorce decree.

Source: lawfuel.com, "Consider Shared Custody Following Divorce", Dec. 25, 2015

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