Much of family law that deals with children operates under the guiding principal of “the best interests of the child.” This seems like a good starting point. However, as with many things related to family law, just how one achieves this “best interest” is a matter of great debate.
Many states, like Illinois, contain within their statutes a section that requires child custody order be in the best interest of children. The statute also allows parents to receive joint custody. Some have suggested that this should be the default standard in all divorces.
In practice, joint custody is usually ordered in a minority of divorce cases. In Nebraska, Legislators were concerned at the low percentage of joint or shared custody cases in the state; a report indicated it was about 30 percent. Some would argue that it is because there is a conspiracy to prevent fathers from obtaining equal time with their children.
When you ask judges and divorce attorneys, they may suggest there is a less sinister reason; it may be that life gets in the way. Here is why. While joint or shared custody may be ideal for the children in a divorce, it assumes the parents are willing to be very cooperative after the divorce.
This is necessary because they will be seeing a lot of each other. Depending on the joint parenting plan and the age of the children, they could be handing off the children every two or three days. Every month.
If the parents are still working out issues from the divorce, this amount of time increases the potential for conflict. And conflict is bad for the children.
Another problem arises if one parent has a demanding job that requires long hours or travel. Unless they are willing to reduce their hours and their position, shared custody may not work, because they simply are not available to deal all of the necessary interaction that children require from being home after school to driving them to after school activities.
Source: Starherald.com, “Nebraska state senator urges action on child custody inequality,” Joe Duggan, January 13, 2014