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Legislative changes favor shared custody

Maryland parents going through divorce and child custody issues are increasingly looking toward shared custody. Also called co-parenting, it involves each parent sharing approximately 50 percent of custody time. While modern courts tend to look on shared custody favorably, a number of legislators are hoping to make it a legal presumption, even in cases where parents disagree.

In more than 20 states, bills have been proposed to encourage shared parenting in custody decisions or make shared parenting a legal presumption that can only be changed in the courtroom. In Kentucky, a law was passed to make shared parenting the standard in interim divorce orders. A similar bill in Florida was vetoed by the governor after passing the legislature. In Michigan, a bill is being considered to make equal parenting time the standard in child custody cases.

The changes have been advocated by fathers' rights activists but also supported by a wide range of scientific evidence that points to positive outcomes for children who have meaningful relationships with both of their parents. However, there are critics of the bills who worry about discretion being taken from judges, especially in cases of abusive or controlling partners.

Across the country, only 10 percent of parents have a custody order created by a judge. In most cases, the judge approves a custody agreement that has been developed separately by the parents. Those agreements generally include some form of shared parenting.

Parents who are dealing with the end of a marriage may be most concerned about child custody decisions. A family law attorney can help divorcing parents achieve a custody order that protects the best interests of the children involved.

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