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Reforms of child custody laws promote shared parenting

Pennsylvania parents who are about to end their relationship could be encouraged by the nationwide trend in child custody laws that favor shared parenting. Society has begun to place greater weight upon the importance of children maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents.

Traditionally, family courts have tended to award primary physical custody to mothers with limited visitation being given to fathers, but this arrangement could alienate the children from their fathers. Researchers have repeatedly found that children enjoy a greater sense of well-being when they spend equal time with both parents.

One approach supports equality between the parents with an emphasis on shared responsibility for parental duties even if the time with children is not entirely equal. Emerging legal reforms are shifting the standard from placing children in a mother's home to decision making based on factors other than a parent's gender or the age of a child. It has been reported that approximately 20 states are in the process of considering various types of custody reform legislation. South Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Utah are among the states that have passed some version.

One of the most challenging aspects that arises when parents of young children end their marriages is child custody. Most courts now award joint legal custody, which allows both parents the right to have input on certain decisions involving their children, such as religion, education and health care, but the emerging trend is to allow joint physical custody as well. This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 residential split, but it is more than the strict visitation schedules that used to be the case. A father who wants to maximize his parental rights may want to discuss this matter with his family law attorney.

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