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Family law sees changes in child custody beliefs and agreements

Pennsylvania and other states are witnessing changes in the way that child custody arrangements between parents are being handled in recent years. The changes are gradual but there is a growing concern about the needs of the children when parents separate and divorce. Creative arrangements and equal sharing are becoming more prevalent in family law courts. The old style of mother getting primary physical custody with sparse visitation to the father is disappearing from a large part of the custody landscape.

One arrangement seen more often is where the children don't move from mother's home to father's home; instead the mother and father rotate coming into the children's residence, which does not change. Each parent may move into the home for a one or two-week period and then vacates the home so that the other parent is able to move in for the same time period. The stability to the children is an improvement over moving them from home to home and disrupting their school schedules in the process.

More agreements are giving liberal rights to the father because studies show that children nearly always do better when both parents remain solidly involved in their lives. This concept is even becoming statutorily recognized in many states so that family law judges must at least pursue the prospect of a shared custody arrangement before reverting to the old style "primary physical custody" arrangement. Change may be difficult for some parents, but the studies show that the children are psychologically and emotionally more fit when the father remains in the picture with a substantial, equal  parenting role.

Some divorces are followed with continuing 'family' nights where both parents will be together and have dinner and activities with the children. This is a sea-change from traditional attitudes on the subject, but where parents can put the love of the children ahead of their own personal gripes about the relationship, these arrangements are appropriate and generally successful. The trend in family law is expected to continue in that direction in Pennsylvania and other states as the concept of the best interests of the children is given practical application and not just fancy lip service.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Why modern custody agreements look so different: 'Anything goes, as long as the children are happy'", Danielle Braff, March 8, 2018

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