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Over the river and through the woods... to mom or dad's house?

When it comes to agreeing on a child custody agreement, it seems to be a balancing act. How often will a child spend time with one parent versus the other? What school will he or she attend? What holidays will be spent with mom? Who pays for summer camp?

Recently, much of the debate around child custody arrangements centers on whether custody should be awarded to dad or mom. In the past, judges may have deferred towards granting the mother custody. But now, some are arguing that legislation should be more in favor of equal custody rights for both parents, not just the mother. In some states, including Arizona, this type of legislation has already been passed.

There are obviously a lot of considerations that should go into who should be awarded custody of a child. Usually courts look at what it is in the best interests of the child. This can often include factors like location, income, and existing relationships with both parents. Evidence of domestic violence or abuse or a restraining order will also help determine which parent should have custody.

Supporters of legislation that leans towards equally shared custody argue that the current systems aren’t considering the best interests of the child. Research has shown that spending more time with both parents, as opposed to one over the other, can actually help a growing and developing child.

The other side argues the exact opposite: equal shared custody can actually be detrimental to a child. The concern seems to be that courts will look less at other factors when determining custody, leading to arrangements that might not make sense. This can be especially true if the father and mother do not live close to one another or if the parents have a particularly contentious relationship.

So what now? Some states have legislation that favors equal shared custody while others have legislation that does not. Regardless of legislation, many agree that each child custody agreement should be looked at on its own merits, taking into consideration the unique factors that exist for each case.

Source: NPR, “Push To Change Custody Laws: What’s Best For Kids?” Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 26, 2014.

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