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Child custody reforms push for equal time with both parents
Twenty states are considering shared parenting for parents after separation or divorce as part of a reform in family courts. There are many ways fathers, and those who support them, are trying to even things out after families are split up. - photo by Mandy Morgan
Nearly two dozen states have been considering shared parenting after divorce or separation as part of a reform of current child custody laws, which could mean more shared time for noncustodial parents with their children.

According to a press release from the National Parents Organization (which advocates for shared parenting in divorce situations), those states currently considering parental reform legislation could "provide children what they most want and need equal time with both parents in instances of divorce or separation."

The NPO hopes people have taken time during this part of the year when fathers are celebrated to consider "the gender inequality that presently exists in the family courts," and to advocate for change as a gift to fathers everywhere, who want equal time with children.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the issue in April. "Prompted partly by fathers concerned that men for too long have gotten short shrift in custody decisions, about 20 states are considering measures that would change the laws governing which parent gets legal and physical control of a child after a divorce or separation."

Most of the proposals of reform are simply urging that judges implement custody schedules maximizing time for both parents. Some proposals would require equal time for both parents unless there is evidence that the arrangement would not meet the child's best interests, the WSJ wrote.

Among recent child development research, a study of the mental health of children in correlation with shared parenting after divorce or separation found that shared parenting children being able to spend substantial time with each parent led to children being less stressed than living mostly with only one parent, reported the NPO.

"Fathers want to share the parenting time with mothers after separation, and research shows children want the same thing," Ned Holstein, NPO founder, told the "Also, research overwhelmingly shows children greatly benefit when both parents play significant roles in their lives."

Public opinion on child custody laws differs from the actual laws themselves, according to a study released earlier this month. The research found that many people in the U.S. and England don't think many of the mandates of child custody and support are fair, especially how little the custodial parent's income is taken into account in calculating child support.

"(Respondents) did not mirror the law in the way they responded to changes in either dad's or mom's income. They put much more weight on mom's income; if her income went up or down, that would affect how much child support would be paid, versus what the law would require," said Ira Ellman, one of the study's head researchers, reported the Deseret News National.

The NPO press release noted the impact single parenting can have on children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 35 percent of children raised by single parents account for 63 percent of teen suicides, 71 percent of high school dropouts and 90 percent of homeless and runaway children, among other things, according to the NPO.

However, there are downsides to forcing children to spend equal time in two different homes, as written by Divorce Magazine in July 2014. Some negatives include the potential of continuous contention between two separated parents, as well as the stress for anxious children as they go between different homes and parenting techniques, according to the publication.

Although there are plenty of good things that come from seeing both parents equally, the best options for children should be decided on a case-by-case basis, wrote Divorce Magazine.
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