Child custody disputes are arguably among the most emotionally charged issues a couple will face during a divorce proceeding. In many cases, both spouses approach the issue of child custody with the hope of spending as much time with their child as possible after the divorce. And while the typical scenario involves two parents who certainly want what is best for their children, they often end up in heated arguments over just what that means. Parenting arrangements can take various forms, and what works for one family may be something very different from what works for another. If you are considering divorce or separation, you are encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced Maryland divorce attorney who will work to preserve and protect your rights in the proceedings.
Under a sole custody arrangement, the child lives primarily with one parent, whereas in a joint custody or shared parenting situation, the parents each spend 50% of the time with their child. While child custody arrangements do run the gamut in terms of sole custody versus shared or joint custody, there has been some news coverage of late that strongly suggests that joint custody should be the rule, not the exception in most cases. One article points to the results of decades of child development research as the impetus for encouraging, if not mandating, shared parenting or joint custody. In this situation, each spouse would spend 50% of the time with the child.
Additional information further supports this proposition. For example, entities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice, point out alarming statistics related to children raised by single parents. According to the data, children brought up by a single parent account for 71% of high school dropouts, 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 85% of those in prison, among other tragic statistics.
Various states are beginning to address the issue of joint versus sole custody. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently formed the Commission on Child Custody Decision Making as one way to tackle the problem. The Governor signed House Bill 687, establishing the Commission to study the practice, principles, and process for child custody decision-making in Maryland. Proponents of a shared parenting arrangements tout benefits such as children with fewer emotional and behavioral problems, better family relations, increased self-esteem, and better performance in school than children who are in a sole custody arrangement. Interestingly enough, these studies also suggest that shared parenting is better for the kids even in situations of “high conflict” between the parents. Parents are said to benefit as well from this joint custody arrangement. Each parent gets some time off from continuous child-care responsibilities.
Statistics in Maryland suggest that in more than 80% of the family law cases, sole custody is awarded to one parent. There is hope that the new Commission on joint custody will increase the dialogue to bring about changes in the landscape of child custody orders throughout the State. If you are facing a child custody dispute of any kind, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney as early in the process as possible. Anthony A. Fatemi is an experienced child custody lawyer representing parties with child custody matters throughout the state of Maryland. For help with your family law needs, you are encouraged to contact us at (301) 519-2801, or to submit our online contact form.
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