In North Dakota’s recent 2014 election, there was an interesting voter initiative on the ballot – the “Parental Rights Initiative.” If it had passed (it was defeated 62% to 38%) it would have required courts to award “equal parenting time” to both parents either in the separation process, or divorce. Though the law didn’t pass, it does shine a light on the on-going debate about how child custody cases are decided.
History of Child Custody
The issue of deciding child custody has a long history in the nation. Colonial Americans, following English rule, maintained that a father should retain the custody of his children upon divorce. This was standard practice until the early 20th century, when motherhood and women as “caregivers” became the norm. As divorce became more common during the 1960’s, there was a large shift towards gender equality and the importance of both parents in a child’s upbringing.
Despite the shifts between one parent being favored over the other, one thing remained true: custody was indivisible. One parent would raise the child, while the other parent would have visiting rights. But shared custody has become more socially and legally accepted as parents have started shouldering more equal parenting responsibilities. And rather than relying on judges to determine “in the best interest of the child,” separating and divorcing parents have started to take on the task of creating their own enforcable “parenting plans” for their children.
Parenting plans are custody agreements, often put together with the help of a mediator. They are meant to be flexible, but also detailed, outlining each parent’s responsibility in the raising of the child. This idea of coming to an agreement fits more in line with healthy child development. An agreed to plan means the child does not get stuck between warring parents duking it out in damaging litigation. It can create a more harmonious living situation for all involved, and most importantly, for the child who is caught in the middle.
Source: The Washington Post, There’s a great way to figure out child custody. Most divorce courts don’t use it., November 14, 2014
33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202
Pasadena, Ca. 91106