Over the past decade, courts have transitioned from assuming that children should primarily reside with their mother to assuming there will be a joint custodial arrangement. It was previously believed that the mother was the more nurturing parent and the father provided the financial support. But as gender roles and responsibilities changed, fathers evolved from a strictly weekend visitation situation to a position of equal importance as a caregiver. Now, courts often expect parents to share the legal custody of their children. When possible, they prefer an approximately 50/50 split between the genders, based upon reasonable work schedules.
Should both parents have equal rights and responsibilities?
I believe it’s in the best interest of all children to have both parents work together and share in the responsibilities of raising their children. Parents should strive to do the best they can and as much as they can for their children. As long as there isn’t a gross inequity in power or perceived power, or one parent has an extreme amount of anger and/or hostility towards the other parent, then sharing parental responsibilities should be encouraged.
Additionally, as the amount women in the workforce continues to increase, it’s not acceptable to expect one parent to give up their work life and become the primary caretaker when both parents had previously shared those responsibilities, usually along with some form of childcare. There is no reason why dual-income households shouldn’t remain as such when parents divorce.
Sharing the rights and responsibilities provides both parents with the opportunity to play more active roles in the care of their children. They will have the opportunity to share in the contact, obligation and enjoyment that comes with raising the children.
When joint custodial parents don’t agree
In a joint custodial arrangement, the courts encourage parents to work together to agree on issues. If they cannot come to an agreement, then it is recommended that they consult with an expert. This expert doesn’t have to be a parenting coordinator.
There are four pillars of decision-making: education, medical, religion and activities. If parents disagree, they can consult an expert in that field. For example, if parents disagree regarding a medical decision, they can consult with, and follow the advice of, the medical expert. This typically solves the dispute as parents usually agree with an expert’s recommendation.
If, for whatever reason, parents still cannot agree, there are a variety of creative solutions possible. For example, they could obtain a second opinion from an expert at a different office or hospital. Or, parents could seek recommendations from three different experts and use the recommendation that the majority believe is best. They could also contact the resident expert in their area and agree to let that person decide. If nothing works, both parents always have the right to go to court and fight for what they believe is in the best interest of their child.
In general, parents should be encouraged and supported to work together and share all child-rearing responsibilities. It’s in the children’s best interest for both parents to play active roles in the care of their children.