Best interests of child and Joint custody

“The best interest of the child”; we often hear this phrase in reference to child-custody cases, but what does it really mean? Obviously, the best possible environment for any child is an emotionally healthy home with 2 parents who love each other and their offspring. When that is no longer possible, due to divorce, what then can we do to try to minimize the traumatic effect the loss of that family unit will have on the children? More often than not in the case of divorce, it is the father who gets pushed to the margins of their children’s lives. Yet, studies done over the past 15-20 years have proven overwhelmingly, that fatherlessness has a profoundly negative effect on most children over the long term. Statistics show that father absence, whether voluntary or forced, contributes to much higher incidence of teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, poor academic performance, lower self-esteem, acting out behaviors, feelings of abandonment, distrust, hostility, difficulty forming lasting relationships, gender identity confusion, and teen suicide. It would seem then, that sole maternal custody, where Dad gets relegated to mere visitor status, is NOT in the best interest of any child. A father is more than a wallet to his child. But this is not just a father’s rights issue. Let’s consider the plight of millions of single mothers across the country. It was Karen DeCrow, former president of the National Organization for Women, who said: “If there is a divorce in the family, I urge a presumption of joint custody of the children. Shared parenting is not only fair to men and children; it is the best option for women. After observing women’s rights and responsibilities for more than a quarter of a century of feminist activism, I conclude that shared parenting is great for women, giving time and opportunity for female parents to pursue education, training, jobs, careers, profession and leisure. There is nothing scientific, logical or rational in excluding men or forever holding women and children as if in swaddling clothes in an eternally loving bondage. Most of us have acknowledged that women can do everything that men can do. It is time now for us to acknowledge that men can do everything women can do.” Why shouldn’t BOTH parents share EQUALLY in the physical, emotional and financial responsibility for their children after divorce? Mothers and fathers both play vital roles in the development of a happy healthy child. The legal standard SHOULD begin at 50/50 custody, with mediated (if necessary) negotiation between parents as to what schedule best accommodates their and the children’s needs. The only exception should be in cases where a parent is proven to be “unfit”.


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