September 11, 2012

An argument against mandated joint child custody

In recent years, courts in Michigan and across the United States have demonstrated a growing preference for awarding shared child custody between divorced parents. In many cases, such arrangements are seen as advantageous because they allow children to maintain healthy relationships with both parents. Some people have even called for laws requiring courts to always hand down such decisions, but other experts say it would be a mistake to statutorily mandate joint child custody.

Each divorce is unique, making it dangerous to decide every case based on a strict set of rules, especially when child custody is involved. Many experts believe it is important for both attorneys and courts to assess each case independently in order to make a decision that properly represents the best interests of the child in question. While many shared custody agreements do indeed benefit the child, other divorces may call for more customized conditions.

For instance, many experts do not believe that a parent who abuses alcohol or drugs should be automatically granted joint custody, nor should those with a history of domestic abuse. Parents who have bitter feelings toward one another and cannot agree on how to raise their child might not warrant shared custody either, as this is likely to result in more fighting which could negatively impact their child’s life.

These and many other common situations illustrate cases where a presumption in favor of shared custody is unneeded and even potentially dangerous to a child’s health. Requiring joint custody agreements would remove discretion from the court, eliminating their ability to make an intelligent, informed custody decision that puts the child’s welfare first.

Many experts say it is appropriate for courts to strive for shared custody arrangements, but that they should be able to modify them as necessary. This allows courts and attorneys to construct more versatile parenting agreements rather than a strict 50/50 schedule.

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