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More flexible child custody arrangements on the rise

Attitudes towards fathers' roles in parenting are changing, and with this change comes a change in child custody agreements. Parents in Maryland and throughout the country are increasingly coming up with creative arrangements that put the child's needs first and allow both parents to remain significant presences in their children's lives.

An arrangement that works for some couples is to have the children remain in the family home while they alternate living there. This does require a high level of trust and cooperation. One couple bought a home with two master bedroom suites although the mother said she locked her door when she was not there. Such arrangements can break down over conflicts about the condition of the house and other issues, as happened with another couple who tried this arrangement. They changed instead to a situation in which each of them had the child on certain weeknights and alternate weekends.

One couple went a step further and lived together for two years after they split up. They had separate bedrooms but continued sharing meals and the common area. However, more typical are situations like the informal agreement one couple arrived at in which the child spends alternate weeks with one parent or the other. The parents can use virtual communication during their "off" weeks to talk to the child.

The variety of options available to parents means that there are some advantages to trying to negotiate an agreement between themselves or with the help of their attorneys instead of going to court and having a judge make the child custody schedule. However, even if parents are able to do this, they may want to have the agreement made legally binding. This would mean a court could step in to help with enforcing a child custody order if one parent violated the agreement.

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