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Advocates pushing for equal custody laws

Some parents in Texas are able to reach a child custody agreement on their own. But when parents cannot agree, a judge decides what living arrangement is in the child's best interest. The court makes this decision by weighing a set of statutory factors against evidence presented by the parties' attorneys.

Typically, one parent is awarded more time with the child than the other parent. However, some advocates are now asking states to consider laws that favor equal or "shared" custody arrangements. Proponents of the shared-parenting laws say that children fare better when both parents are actively involved in their upbringing.

The founder of a national group that supports shared parenting said three factors support the group's push for equal parenting laws.

First, he said societal norms have changed and many men are now fulfilling more of a caretaker role. Second, he said numerous polls have shown that a majority of Americans support equal parenting time following a divorce. Finally, he said that it is time for courts to stop granting one parent more custodial rights than the other.

The group's founder said that allowing parents to have equal access to their children following a divorce takes away a lot of the hostility during the divorce process. He said awarding one parent more custody rights can leave the other parent -- usually the father -- feeling "deeply disenfranchised."

But opponents of shared custody laws say a mandatory 50-50 arrangement wouldn't be best for the children in many circumstances.

While it has been agreed that 50-50 custody arrangements wouldn't be applied in cases involving domestic violence or substance abuse, opponents say that this behavior isn't always documented unless a police report is filed. For that reason, they say judges need to have more discretion in child custody cases.

What are your thoughts on the proposed shared custody laws? Should both parents have equal custody of their children?

Source: USA TODAY, "Shared parenting could be new divorce outcome," Jonathan Ellis, Jan. 27, 2014

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