Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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Despite conflict, shared parenting is a win-win

From the moment you asked your spouse for a divorce, you may have known the process would not be easy. If your spouse reacted with anger or hurt feelings, you probably saw the dissipation of any chances for a conflict-free separation. This may be of special concern to you if you had hopes of sharing custody of your children.

While the roles of mothers and fathers have evolved in recent generations, studies show that 80 percent of custody battles end with the mothers receiving full custody and fathers having court-appointed visitation. This pattern persists despite the evidence that children fare much better when parents share custody equally.

Conflict may be overrated

The presence of conflict between you and your spouse may be one deciding factor in the court's determination to grant full custody to one parent. For generations, the courts have sought to protect children from the stress of warring parents, and the solution is often to limit child custody to one parent. However, a recent university study revealed some surprising conclusions about divorce conflict and custody, for example:

  • Parents may exaggerate or incite conflict between them because each side is trying to win the favor of the court.
  • Conflict between divorcing parents is often temporary and resolves itself within a few years after the divorce.
  • Unfortunately, the custody rulings that result from that conflict may last indefinitely, and the impact on your children may be permanent.
  • Children benefit from equal time with both parents even if those parents are in conflict with one another.

While psychologists worry that children suffer from seeing their parents quarrel and disagree, the benefits of shared parenting often outweigh that stress. With balanced time between you and your spouse, your children may be more likely to succeed at school, resist peer pressure to do drugs and avoid the risk of teen pregnancy. The good news is that you don't have to be a perfect co-parent; most children simply want a relationship with both of their parents.

Slow moving legislation

Several states have already passed laws promoting the concept of shared parenting. These laws instruct judges to begin with the presumption that the parents will share custody equally in cases where there is no danger to the children, no matter their ages.

New York has not yet passed shared parenting legislation, and even in states where such laws exist, you may not have a guarantee of equal time with your children if your spouse testifies about conflict between you. Having a strong legal advocate will give you a decided advantage during custody proceedings.

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