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Experts debate over child custody mandate

Child custody is a touchy situation for many parents in New Jersey, especially during a divorce. But it is also a subject of debate for legislators and experts in family law because some want to require that children spend equal time with both parents. Some studies have shown that this is beneficial to a child caught in between two parents, but other child custody experts have weighed in, suggesting this may not be the case.

According to one expert that has spent four decades in the field of child custody and family law, trends are already leaning towards shared-parenting arrangements. This means that parents realize the needs of their children to see both parents, despite disagreements that may occur between the divorced spouses. But groups advocating for an equal-time mandate want this to be required of all couples, according to the same expert.

To counter this desire, some have brought up situations where shared custody with equal time between both parents may be unhealthy for the child. In cases of controlling parents, this could hurt the child and may cause friction between the divorced individuals. Then there are parents with histories of domestic violence or substance abuse: If these parents have not addressed such conditions, they may not be suitable caregivers.

Those against the mandate believe that each case is subjective and needs to be addressed as such rather than with a piece of legislation that encompasses all cases, no matter what. In addition, they think that such a mandate would limit the reach of the court system to place a child into a situation that is in her or his best interest.

Now, there are cases where equal-time parenting does work but most divorced couples do not have such arrangements. Some use what is known as a 2-2-5 agreement where each parent gets two days out of the week and then alternate on the weekends. The name comes from the idea that both parents receive two days of custody and the time spent apart from either parent is never more than five days.

Source: Huffington Post, "Why Equal Child Custody Should Not Be Presumed," Henry Gornbein, Aug. 29, 2012

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