By Debra Schoenberg
Going through a divorce is emotionally taxing especially if there are children involved. Child custody battles are typically the most contentious part of the divorce process. A new report, by the National Parents Organization, finds most states are failing children after divorce because there’s a lack of meaningful legislation that encourages divorced parents to share the responsibility of raising children.
According to studies, children of divorce are more prone to psychological, emotional, physical and mental health problems. These kids represent 63% of suicides; 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions; 71% of high school dropouts; 75% of children in substance abuse rehab centers; 85% of those in prison; 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders and 90% of homeless or runaway children;
When a child has two fit and loving parents who are willing to act as responsible parents and stay equally involved in raising their children it not only benefits their child, it’s also good for society. There’s evidence that shared parenting following a divorce improves the long-term outcome for children. The benefits are seen in academic performance and emotional and psychological wellbeing.
By sharing parental responsibilities, the research shows there’s also an increase in commitment to financial child support, a reduction in parental conflict and lower rates of domestic violence.
Considering all of the benefits, you might think that states would be scrambling to pass stronger laws to encourage co-parenting. However, according to a new report card issued by the organization, most states are barely making the grade. California got a ‘D’ for its current statutes which only require courts to consider “friendly parent” factors in awarding sole custody.
California has no statutory preference for, or presumption of, shared parenting. The presumption (CAL. FAM. CODE § 3080) in favor of joint custody applies only when both parents agree to joint custody.
Judges in every state have the discretion to order shared parenting if they choose to. Unfortunately, this is rarely done, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, which shows that sole custody is awarded to one parent in about 80% of all cases.
If divorcing parents recognize the long-term benefits that shared-parenting provides, you can advocate for your child by making that choice. Even if you think you are the “better” parent who can provide the most stable environment, your desires might not be in the best interest of your children. If the goal is to raise healthy, productive and responsible kids both parents play a vital role in shaping their future.