Many states fail to make the grade when it comes to promoting joint child custody

In the wake of a divorce decisions related to child custody are often a major source of anxiety and concern for both parents. Divorced fathers often have special cause for concern as U.S. family courts still award sole child custody, primarily to mothers, in roughly 80 percent of custody cases. This statistic is especially alarming given the number of divorced U.S. fathers who likely want to take a more active role in childrearing duties.

Numerous research reports and studies indicate that children of divorce fare better in shared parenting situations and experienced “lower levels of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, truancy and other negative behaviors than children who lived primarily with a custodial parent.” Why then are family courts in many states continuing to favor primary or sole custody over joint custody arrangements?

A recent report by the National Parents Organization reviewed child custody statutes in all 50 states and provided a grade for each state based upon its policies with regard to promoting and encouraging shared parenting custody arrangements. Using a traditional grading level of A through F, Illinois was among 18 states to receive a grade in the C range. Eight other states ranked higher and in the B range. No states received A grades. Most notable and alarming are the 25 states that received grades of D or F.

The NPO’s rankings indicate that many states, including Illinois, have a long way to go in promoting joint or shared child custody arrangements. NPO researchers hope their state rankings will help bring about changes in family law statutes and encourage judges and others with influence to, when possible, consider joint parenting as a viable custody option.

Source: National Parents Organization, “STATE-BY-STATE ANALYSIS HIGHLIGHTS PARENTAL INEQUALITY ACROSS THE NATION,” Rita Fuerst Adams, Nov. 13, 2014

USA Today, “Report: States fail on shared parenting laws,” Jonathan Ellis, Nov. 13, 2014

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