Shared parenting refers to joint physical custody, where both parents share approximately equal parenting time and are equally recognized by the law as the legal guardians of their children.
According to the Children's Rights Council, there are only 6 states within the U.S. - Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin - that currently have legislation which promotes equal access to both parents.
Latest DevelopmentsIn recent years, several states have considered shared parenting legislation:
- In April of 2007, Michigan State Representative Glenn Steil, Jr. introduced House Bill 4564, which would require shared parenting in all cases except those situation where either parent is deemed unfit, unwilling, or unable to care for his/her children. The bill was referred to the House Family and Children's Services Committee on April 5, 2007.
- In 2006, participants in the North Dakota general election voted against a shared parenting initiative proposed on the ballot.
- In 2005, the New York legislature considered a shared parenting initiative. However, Bill A00330 was put on hold in April, 2006.
- Also in 2005, the Massachusetts legislature considered bills to require shared custody. However, in June of 2006, the Massachusetts Senate Judiciary Committee recommended against the shared parenting bills, and they were put on hold.
Shared parenting has always been an option for parents. In the past, this was referred to as "joint physical custody." What is relatively new is the consideration of laws which would make shared parenting the legal standard in cases where neither parent is deemed "unfit" to raise their children.
In other words, unless one parent can effectively prove that the other is unfit, the family would be required by law to initiate a joint custody agreement, which would include both physical custody and legal custody.
What is difficult to swallow about shared parenting legislation is the "one size fits all" mentality. Clearly, we need to find creative solutions which maximize the genuine involvement of each parent. However, we must also recognize that not all children thrive when they're forced to transition back and forth between two homes.