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Many states consider changes in child custody laws

Judges are generally more willing to grant child custody to fathers than they have been in the past, as traditional parenting roles no longer apply in all cases. In courtrooms in Virginia and around the country, judges look at factors like a parent's ability to care for a child and the existing relationship each parent has with their children. However, 83 percent of custodial parents are mothers according to census data. While there may be many reasons for this, several states are deciding whether to change their laws about physical custody.

In many of these cases, the intent is that both parents would receive equal parenting time after a divorce. Judges try to act in the best interests of children in custody cases, and research suggests that equal parenting time helps lessen the negative effects of divorce on children. One study even suggested that children who live with both parents after a separation or divorce feel less stress than children who only live with one parent, so a change in some state laws could better help judges act in the best interests of children.

The shared-parenting movement continues to gain steam. A bill in one state would make it clear that parental rights are fundamental rights, while Utah recently enacted legislation that increases parenting time for noncustodial parents by allowing 145 overnights a year instead of the previous 80.

While shared custody may be the best option for many children, it depends on the circumstances of each case. If one parent has a nonexistent relationship with a child or could be a danger to a child or the other parent, then joint custody might not be permitted. Absent these factors, a family law attorney might assist a parent in negotiating an agreement that will provide roughly equal parenting time and then present it to the court for its approval.

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