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Is shared child custody better in theory than practice?

When it comes to child custody, each case is as unique as the family that is involved. Most states have statutes in place that recognize and honor the fact that child custody is not a one-size-fits-all issue. Family court judges are allowed to use their discretion in handling issues of child custody, which in turn allows for a wide range of custody arrangements.

However, there has been growing discussion in California and elsewhere over whether states should adopt a system under which shared or equal child custody is statutorily mandated. This has caused a great deal of debate among the legal community as to the best way to approach child custody cases. Many in the field strongly assert that while the existing system may not be perfect, allowing judges to determine child custody cases based on each family's unique circumstances is still the best way to ensure that children are properly cared for. In other words, child custody is too important an issue to take a cookie cutter approach.

There are a multitude of reasons why shared or equal custody is not the best fit for everyone. In many families, one parent assumes the majority of responsibility for the care and upbringing of the children. To drastically change this arrangement following a divorce would not only upset the child's sense of stability, it could also negatively affect the ability of the primary caregiver to continue the existing pattern of discipline and routine. In addition, in circumstances where there are issues of poor parenting skills or drug or alcohol abuse, it is clearly improper to insist that parenting time be shared equally.

Child custody issues require a delicate legal touch. For now, judges in these cases here in Torrance must consider what is in the best interest of the child. In order to do so, they have been granted the ability to carefully consider the ability of each parent to provide time and attention to their children, as well as provide for their needs. As the law currently stands, each child custody arrangement has the potential to be as unique as the California family who seeks it.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Why Equal Child Custody Should Not Be Presumed," Henry Gornbein, Aug. 29, 2012

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