November based on Shared Parenting.
Read this please:
From the Albany Times Union
First published: Tuesday, April 11, 2006 (TODAY!)
EDITORIAL: Custody challenges
It’s time New York embraced the concept of shared parenting
When members of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families vote on child custody legislation, possibly today, they will be required to answer one of the most painful questions facing divorcing parents: Who gets the kids?
The larger question, though, is whether the Legislature should grapple with the issue of custody apart from the matter of how divorces are granted in New York. The two are linked in many ways; if the Legislature is determined to proceed on custody, it must keep issues such as whether to approve no-fault divorce in mind.
At the moment, the courts invoke the long-held presumption that custody should be awarded to the primary caregiver, often the mother. The Assembly bill would require the courts to view both parents as having an interest in raising their children. It’s the right presumption — and an overdue one.
The notion of a primary caregiver has its roots in another era, when mothers
usually stayed at home to raise the children, while fathers were the sole providers and spent much of their time at work. In today’s world, both parents are likely to have jobs and spend time away from the home. Attitudes
have changed as well. In earlier times, fathers were presumed to have little
interest in raising children, but that stereotype has been demolished by studies that show many fathers not only want to have a role in their children’s lives, but also that their presence is a major factor in their development. Still other studies have shown that children are better adjusted if their parents share custody.
Opponents fear that shared parenting will expose mothers and children to abusive or otherwise unfit fathers, but the legislation specifies that only fit parents would be eligible for shared custody. There is also fear that the spouse who controls the finances — usually the husband — might coerce the other spouse into accepting undesirable terms to secure primary care.
But lawmakers can address that concern by adopting language that assures both parties will have access to competent legal counsel to represent their interests in the courts.
Shared custody doesn’t mean equal custody. It means that divorcing parents work out and follow a plan to share the responsibilities of raising their children. If that’s not possible in acrimonious cases, even after exhaustive
required mediation, the court should decide what is in the best interest of the children. There should be mandatory counseling as well, to ensure that parents who have not provided care individually to their children are prepared to meet that responsibility during and after the divorce process.
Meanwhile, a matrimonial commission appointed by the state’s chief judge, Judith Kaye, suggests an alternative to the presumption of shared parenting:
“No presumptions regarding the awarding of custody, whatsoever, should be created by legislation, case law or otherwise.”
That seems to be the ideal approach, and it’s worthy of discussion. The question before state lawmakers now, though, is whether New York should embrace shared parenting. It should.