Leading Women for Shared Parenting recently completed a comprehensive review of child custody determinations for the state of North Dakota from 2011 through 2017 and the findings are quite concerning.
The results show an unbalanced system of justice in the state. Although the population in North Dakota is highly homogenous, shared custody awards vary by more than 100 percent when comparing county to county or judicial district to judicial district results.
Furthermore, the study found that a child’s opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with both parents is mostly determined by a) If the mother wants the father involved in the child’s life; and b) The county in which the divorce was filed.
Despite a mountain of evidence proving that shared child custody is the best post-divorce arrangement for children, North Dakota courts far too regularly utilize standard custody arrangements, like every other weekend, that effectively sideline one parent from the child’s life.
The LWSP study focused on North Dakota shared parenting, but that’s hardly the only state to come up short when it comes to promoting shared parenting after divorce. The National Parents Organization conducted a state-by-state analysis of the shared parenting laws in the U.S. and found that a majority of states’ statutes are behind the times.
The LWSP study highlights glaring inequalities that still exist in the family court system even as researchers continue to show the benefits of shared parenting and that families need fathers.
A new Swedish study found children of divorce behaved better in joint custody arrangements than if they lived with just one of their parents. Children whose parents are divorced didn’t fare any worse than kids in traditional families as long as they were in true joint custody arrangements. Parenting after divorce isn’t easy, but the transition tends to go much more smoothly when utilizing cooperative parenting techniques that keep both parents involved and minimize high conflict parenting.
Shared parenting research shows that sharing custody of your child enables them to develop healthy relationships with each parent and that aids in their development. Divorced or separated parents should be able to come up with a shared parenting plan and shared parenting calendar that works for both sides and keeps the child’s best interests the top priority.
Although state laws still lag behind, the wheels of progress are churning. Shared parenting advocates scored significant victories in 2016 and 2015 and a grassroots effort recently led to the passage of a new shared parenting law in Kentucky. Ohio and Michigan are attempting to rally shared parenting supporters along with 21 other states that have considered shared parenting legislation in 2017.
Persistence pays off
Many dads get discouraged when they’re fighting for shared custody. It’s so difficult to remain positive when you’re stuck in a system that seems to work against you and attempts to minimize your role as a father by.
However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that you’re not powerless in the fight for shared parenting. Kentucky shared parenting advocate Matt Hale proved as much in his efforts pushing for new laws in the Bluegrass State.
For years, Hale attended local Town Hall meetings to take the floor and explain the benefits of shared parenting. His persistence was eventually rewarded.
“It did take a while, but I never got frustrated because I saw the continuing efforts and contact with the local lawmakers so I knew we were making progress,” Hale said.
Hale lamented that more fathers didn’t reach out to him to get involved during his campaign, but he adds that he’s starting to see more dads get active as more states consider revising their custody statutes.
“(Changing) child custody laws is difficult, but you can do it,” Hale said. “I would encourage people to not underestimate themselves and give it some real effort. We need to do that because our kids deserve both parents.”
If you have any questions about the shared parenting guidelines in your state or need any help coming up with a shared parenting schedule, it’s best to contact a family law attorney in your state. They will have a better idea how the specific laws in your jurisdiction work and help you understand what you can do to increase your chances at 50-50 parenting time.