Divorce courts in California and around the country have long been instructed to keep “the best interests of the child” front and center when hearing child custody cases. Issues such as choosing the custodial parent, visitation rights, relocation, and more have for decades been decided within an established paradigm. That long-held view often defaults to the mother retaining physical custody while the father gets temporary custody every other weekend and time during summers when children are out of school.
However, with shared parenting legislation currently moving forward in 20 states, the trend is toward both parents being treated equally under family law. This means that all benefits and responsibilities are evenly divided, even when the parents don’t see eye to eye.
Much of this sea change originated with the “father’s rights” movement that challenged what it held to be unfair treatment of fathers regarding visitation and crushing child support payments. Individuals and organizations from both sides of the political spectrum have forwarded the agenda of what they term “gender equity” in family law guidelines regarding parental rights and obligations.
However, pushback has grown against the creation and enactment of new rules from advocacy groups who fear a rollback of hard-won protections against abusive and controlling ex-partners enacted over the past few decades. Those organizations maintain that most parents already share child custody, and the new guidelines would apply to everyone even though only 10 percent or so of parents are “bad actors” needing to have their behavior controlled. The battle will no doubt continue as states try to make their family court guidelines fair to all parties involved.