Legislative bodies across America are contemplating sweeping changes to child custody laws. Elected representatives are responding to pressure from fathers’ rights groups by reconsidering longstanding procedures that some argue belong to a bygone era when mothers were more involved in child-rearing than fathers. A minimum of twenty (20) different states will be considering revisions that may dramatically alter the landscape of divorce and custody litigation.
Legislation passed last year in Kentucky appears to be a model for most of the proposed revisions. Bluegrass State lawmakers made joint physical custody and equal parenting time the default arrangement in all new child custody arrangements coming before courts. Women’s rights groups are protesting proposed changes and believe granting equal parenting time may empower abusive and unfit parents. Fathers’ groups point out most cases do not involve abuse and judges will have the ability to deviate from default standards upon finding other arrangements are in the best interests of children in individual cases.
While dads relegated to every other weekend custody are eager to be more fully integrated into children’s lives, the percentage of parenting time is often a major factor in determining child support and some attorneys are concerned the proposed changes will dramatically reduce future support awards and create financial hardship for single mothers who generally receive less pay than men and have often taken time out of the workforce to care for very young children. It remains to be seen if changes in child support formulas also get considered.
Parents considering a divorce should consult an experienced family law attorney to ascertain the potential impact of changing child custody laws. Making an informed decision about all the inherent risks is critical when considering the painful process of divorce and an informed family law attorney may be able to provide much-needed perspective to parents of either gender.