By Michael Alison Chandler | The Washington Post
The every-other-weekend dad, born from two generations of soaring divorce rates, was once a conventional part of American culture. In recent years, more couples have been agreeing to parent after divorce as they did in marriage: collaboratively.
Now lawmakers are accelerating this trend toward co-parenting, with legislatures in more than 20 states considering bills this year that would encourage shared parenting or make it a legal presumption – even when parents disagree.
Kentucky this year passed a law to make joint physical custody and equal parenting time standard for temporary orders while a divorce is being finalized. Florida’s legislature overwhelmingly approved a bill last year to presume equal time for child custody plans, but it was vetoed by the governor. And in Michigan, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make equal parenting time the starting point for custody decisions.
“The days of the ‘tender years doctrine’ are long gone. Arizona is also a part of this trend when it recently declared, by the passage of A.R.S. § 25-103, a public policy that it is in a child’s best interest “[t]o have substantial, frequent, meaningful and continuing parenting time with both parents” and “[t]o have both parents participate in decision-making about the child.” This statute does not quite create a blanket presumption in favor of joint legal decision-making and equal parenting time, but my experience has been that most judges are basically treating it that way. My opinion about creating presumptions regarding legal decision-making and parenting time is mixed. However, as long as we continue to use a best interest analysis as our guiding principle, thus allowing the court freedom to take action against an unfit parent to protect a child’s health and safety, then I think we still have our heads screwed on straight.”