The adage “in the best interests of the child” is a commonplace utterance in family law that is frequently intoned when it comes to matters relating to child custody.
Although it’s facially clear enough what that means, how are those interests best promoted?
A recent article on the subject of sole custody versus shared parenting takes a close look at an issue that is garnering considerable interest in the realm of family law, namely this: What should be the judicial standard when it comes to custody awards? Indeed, should there even be a bedrock assumption regarding parental custody?
Here’s the take of many family law reformists, including the advocacy group National Parents Organization (NPO): Except in clear cases that involve problematic issues like physical or substance abuse, the standard default decision of a judge should lean toward a shared parenting award.
The NPO and other advocates say that ample evidence points to kids who are generally happier and better adjusted when they have ready and consistent access to both parents.
That contrasts to what the above-cited article calls “decades-old research rooted in Freudian psychoanalysis about what’s best for children.” That research has led many judges to simply favor mothers in custody outcomes.
That needs to change, say shared custody proponents, with one of them — a professor and researcher — stating that a lack of updated and accurate information regarding the clear benefits of shared parenting owes to “the fault of social scientists.”
The NPO recently released a report card grading all states on their child custody laws. The organization gave Arkansas a “D.”