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Equal child custody may be better for kids of divorce

Many Texas residents who grew up with divorced parents were raised mostly by their mothers, given that for decades it was a fairly standard agreement. Fathers were rarely awarded child custody; instead they were allowed to see their kids every other weekend, some holidays and perhaps one day during the week.

Even though we've seen a shift in recent years that awards custody to more fathers, many parents still struggle with arrangements that don't allow them to play an active, ongoing role in their children's lives. Some of these parents are lobbying hard to change state laws and effectively demonstrate that children benefit from having equal time with both parents.

One father in a nearby state worked with state legislators, judges, lawyers and activists to successfully pass a law saying that in the absence of domestic violence or drug use, it's in the child's best interest to have "substantial, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents." It encourages joint parenting and forbids family courts from giving one parent preferential treatment based on parent or child gender.

Back in the days when the kids automatically went to live with Mom, the assumption was that constantly going back and forth from one parent's home to another was bad for children of divorce. But a survey of many of those grown children suggests otherwise. A developmental psychologist who questioned 1,000 college students about their relationships with their divorced parents found that most believed the best arrangement would have been an equal split. Additional research tends to back up the notion that in order for children to socially adapt and grow up well-adjusted, they need the complementary nurturing of both parents.

Laws across the country are adapting to fit this ideal. In Texas, non-custodial parents are now able to get about 40 percent of parenting time, and other states are following suit. Parents who aren't satisfied with one or two weekends a month with their kids tend to play a big role in changing child custody and visitation laws, which helps all parents frustrated with the limitations of their non-custodial status.

If you're among those, you don't necessarily have to picket around the Capitol building or become a full-time activist. You might benefit by simply consulting with a family law attorney about a child custody modification, which could allow you to see more of your children and play a more active, meaningful role as a parent.

Source: AZCentral.com, "Arizona dad fights for rights of divorced fathers," Alia Beard Rau, June 16, 2012

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