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Massachusetts child custody reform? Some say 'yes'

In 2010, U.S Census data estimated that approximately 80 percent of the custodial parents across the country were women. Advocates for child custody reform, like the Boston-based National Parents Organization, often cite statistics such as this in support of new legislation.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have proposed amending several portions of the current child custody laws. A prominent change would force courts to grant joint custody in most cases. The exception would be situations in which the court deems a parent unfit to care for the child.

A large basis of the support for reform lies in more than the gender argument. Another major argument is that the current system “encourages bitter custody battles” as Ned Holstein, founder of National Parents Organization, said.

According to Holstein, the best interests of the child standard is not really met when the “battle” ends with a sole custody win. With sole custody often comes child and spousal support paid by the non-custodial parent. “That’s the worst possible thing for the kids,” he said.

There are very real benefits to joint custody and co-parenting. Kids get to spend time with both parents and parents get more time to pursue their personal interests and education as well. Holstein argued that studies show the cooperation between parents actually helps reduce instances of domestic violence.

Those are the arguments for reform. Like any other debate, others claim we should not be so quick to move on this idea. What are their arguments? We’ll take a look at the other side in our next post in this two-part series.

Source: Eagle-Tribune, “Advocates push for shared parenting in divorce cases,” Christian M. Wade, March 26, 2015

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