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California custody laws receive a D grade for shared parenting

California was one of 23 states that received a grade of D when the National Parents Organization rated how each state's custody laws treated shared parenting in 2014. Only the District of Columbia and seven states were awarded an B grade, and no state earned an A. Child custody laws throughout the United States have been criticized for basing decisions on outdated gender roles and ignoring a growing body of research that highlights the benefits of shared parenting.

The NPO praised California child custody laws for requiring ccourts to take friendly parent factors into consideration when custody decisions are made, but they criticized them for requiring both parents to agree before joint custody can be considered. California was also graded poorly for not explicitly providing for shared parenting arrangements during temporary orders.

Census data indicates that the vast majority of custodial parents are mothers, and a Nebraska study of custody cases during the period between 2002 and 2012 found that 72 percent of non-custodial fathers only see their children about five days each month. However, research continues to show that children fare much better when they spend significant time with both of their parents. Lawmakers are getting this message, and changes to child custody laws that would encourage shared parenting have been proposed in several states.

Discussions concerning child custody sometimes become strained, and parents are often reluctant to consider living arrangements that they feel would not be in the best interests of their children. Experienced family law attorneys may understand that reaching a compromise could benefit all parties concerned while avoiding the uncertainty of a court decision. Attorneys could seek to reduce conflict during child custody negotiations by using the research about the benefits of shared parenting to introduce parents to different ideas and start a constructive debate.

Source: National Parents Organization, "2014 Shared Parenting Report Card", accessed on June 25, 2015

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