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While still not the norm, joint custody is more common today

At one time, it was fairly common for courts in Maryland and other states to side with mothers when there was a need to make custody decisions. According to one study, this is exactly what happened about 80 percent of the time 1980. But that figured dropped to around 40 percent nearly three decades later. It's a reflection of an increasingly common preference for joint custody or shared parenting.

Nowadays, courts are more likely to approach cases involving parenting issues with a presumption of joint custody, or joint legal custody. For physical custody, which deals with where the child primarily lives and sleeps, mothers are still likely to be favored. This is often because of the proximity to a child's school and similar considerations.

Changes in attitudes about parenting that started in the later part of the 20th century have been cited as being part of the reason for the shift in custody preferences. It was also during this time that more women began to see the importance of getting help with parenting duties from fathers while they pursue careers. Divorced dads aren't the only types of fathers seeking custody. However, it's actively involved dads with more financial resources who are more likely to seek custody. Even so, court attitudes in regard to custody are generally the same for dads who were never married.

Most custody arrangements are also resolved these days without a trial. One reason for this is because courts are increasingly encouraging parents to pursue pre-trial mediation. Another way a parent may be able to work out custody details without court intervention is with the help of a divorce lawyer. Once the main points are covered, an attorney can also attempt to negotiate a fair visitation schedule and discuss options with child support, if appropriate.

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