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More and more courts seek joint parenting time

As the American family structure changes from a more traditional nuclear family to a more accepting and diverse model, the legal aspects surrounding family law issues in New Jersey also change and adapt. One area where the law is truly reflecting societal norms is with child custody determinations.

For 30 years or so, when courts were faced with the issue of who gets custody of a child, the court almost always granted custody to the mother. Reasons for favoritism toward the mother were based on beliefs and opinions that mothers were better equipped to raise children, and that they usually took on a larger role in the parenting. Nonetheless, this trend is drastically changing, and more and more court are awarding parents joint custody of their children versus sole custody.

One study from Wisconsin Court Records revealed that the number of mothers granted sole custody of children dropped from 80% in 1988 to roughly 40% in 2008. Courts were not necessarily losing confidence in mothers, they were just making more decisions that pushed for joint parenting time.

The study indicated increases in the number of equal shared custody cases, as well as unequal joint custody cases. The one number that did not see much change was the number of fathers who were granted sole custody, which stayed consistent right around 10%. Of course, the study only considered cases of divorce and did not look at families where children are born into single-parent households.

The new numbers are very telling of the new normal in New Jersey families and throughout the United States. When parents get divorced, fathers and mothers do not necessarily have to face a preconceived notion that the mother is the only person capable of raising a child. Parents have rights when it comes to a child custody determination and these movements in the family law area help to validate those rights.

Source: Time, "Divorce: Shared Custody of Kids is on the Rise," Charlotte Alter, May 22, 2014

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