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Monday, April 23, 2012

Should Shared Parenting be Presumptive?

The Minnesota House recently passed a shared parenting bill which has a presumption of at least 45.1% of the parenting time with each parent.  This presumption can be overcome by certain factors.  Attorney Robert Franklin has written an editorial supporting the bill and calling on the Senate and Governor to pass it as well.

A similar movement has been trying to get presumptions of shared physical custody passed in Massachusetts, and we reviewed these proposals in our series on Custody Reform.

Custody Reform should be based on evidence about what defaults are in the best interest of children. There is evidence of a shift in our society to greater parenting involvement of fathers, but the available evidence is still strongly in favor of very young children spending more time with their mother. Frequent contact with both parents is necessary at a very young age, but equal time doesn't take into account the realities of the unusual feeding and sleeping schedule that newborns have (especially if the mother is breast-feeding).

Mr. Franklin indicates that breast-feeding can be worked around through pumping and storage as mother's who work often do.  However, this ignores part of the benefit of breast-feeding which is bonding with the mother.  This comment also ignores the immense pressure put on mothers of newborns.  Because of the need for newborns to have constant contact with both parents to form a bond with them, an equal parenting plan at this age would involve almost daily transitions.  Mr. Franklin expects these mothers to work, pump every two to three hours and accommodate multiple parenting transitions.  I'm not sure when he expects them to sleep?

I am in favor of recognizing the societal shift in parenting duties through greater presumptions for shared physical custody. However, there should also be some indication that this presumption does not mean equal time for children whose age would not favor equal time. I would suggest some tempering of the shared physical custody presumption to recognize the different needs of children at different ages.  The Shared Parenting brochure and the Model Parenting Plans provided by the Massachusetts courts both recognize this need to adjust the schedule and division of time as the child grows older.

Maybe the time has come to change the presumptions, but that doesn't mean we have to force those presumptions to fit every situation.  Presumptions of shared parenting with children of certain ages makes sense, but with children who are very young or who have special needs there needs to be consideration of how those factors affect their needs.

For more information check out these resources:

Parenting Plan Worksheet - Use this worksheet to help compare potential or proposed Parenting Plans on a user-friendly calendar.


Child Custody Mediation
Collaborative Child Custody Resolution
Child Custody Litigation


1 comment:

  1. I've read a ton about Minnesota's situation. It's difficult to make these types of laws because every circumstance is so different. Has definitely brought about dissension. I think this decision needs MUCH more examination, personally.

    Thanks for the post

    ReplyDelete

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