An essay recently published online makes an interesting argument that the law should presume that divorcing parents should get equal custody time with their children. The idea has been floating around for some time, but no state has adopted it. In most states, including Pennsylvania, if the parents cannot come to an out-of-court settlement, the courts will award custody based on the fitness of the parents and the best interests of their children.
The essay argues, however, that parents have a fundamental right to be with their children. If parents are not divorced, no one is evaluating who is the better parent. But if they do divorce, suddenly their fitness to parent becomes an issue. The essay also argues that a presumption of equal custody time would align with no-fault divorce laws, which must assume that both parents are equally able to care for their children. The author also points out that such a presumption would promote the policy of granting both parents custody, cut down on contentious custody battles, and thereby increase the efficiency of the courts.
While it is true that granting parents equal custody could cut down on time in court and corresponding attorney fees, the author’s additional points do not necessarily correlate with experience. Sometimes divorce results from divergent views on parenting. The very fact that one spouse lacks parenting skills can contribute to the couple’s decision to divorce. Examination of each parent’s ability to care for the kids is thus appropriate in some cases. Furthermore, the fact that a couple gets a no-fault divorce does not necessarily imply that both spouses have the same level of skill as parents. Their decision to amicably split does not mean they feel the same way about dividing custody.
Even so, in many divorces, the spouses want to share custody, knowing that time with each parent benefits the child’s emotional development and relationship with his parents. While the essay makes some logical jumps that are not completely convincing, equal custody time is appropriate for many couples. If you need help sorting out a custody arrangement, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Petrelli Previtera Schimmel.