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Advocates across nation push for equal child custody

Many state governments are starting to consider changing child custody laws in order to promote what's been dubbed "shared parenting." Advocates for this approach state that it's in children's best interests to spend an equal amount of time with both of their parents. These advocates are against laws in which child custody is awarded to one parent. They also recognize that only one parent should end up with custody if the other parent has had a history of abuse. Opponents of shared parenting argue that judges must have flexibility in order to put children in the best possible situation.

Several states have looked into the issue or have already taken action. In Arkansas, a law was passed in 2013 that called for children of divorce to spend a "reasonably equal" amount of time in the custody of either parent. Before the law was passed, a joint custody outcome was not considered to be favorable in Arkansas.

A commission was created in Maryland to examine decisions made in child custody cases. In Connecticut, a task force was issued to study whether or not the state should presume that shared custody is an ideal outcome for children. A shared parenting bill was passed last year in Florida, but it was vetoed by the governor.

The National Parents Organization is one of the groups that supports the idea of shared parenting. It cites three main reasons for the popularity of the movement. First, the gender roles in America have changed, and men are increasingly taking on the role of caretaker. Second, according to the NPO, polls indicate that shared parenting is supported by a majority of Americans. Lastly, courts have been granting custodial parents more authority for many years, creating a frustrated backlash from non-custodial parents.

Only time will tell if Illinois will take measures similar to other states. Either way, there's no denying that the idea is slowly gaining support on a national level.

Source: usatoday.com, "Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome" Jonathan Ellis, Jan. 27, 2014

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