If you are a dad, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of your child, and as an active and engaged parent, you feel that you contribute on some level to their health and wellness. Whether it is attending their soccer games or helping them with their homework, you are there for them when they need you, and divorce should not threaten that.
If you are a dad just starting the divorce process, you may spend late nights worrying about your place in your child’s life and how that may change. You may have heard about how in many parts of the country, family courts rule in favor of mothers, leaving fathers with limited child custody and forcing them to pay child support, without ever considering what actually is in the best interests of the child.
However, you, just as all fathers who are fighting for their place in their children’s lives, have a say in how the fight goes. You need to enlist the assistance of a family law attorney who understands what men and fathers go through during the divorce experience.
A family law attorney who focuses on the needs of men and fathers will have the necessary resources to assist your efforts and preserve your place in your child’s life.
What many who do not value the place of a father in a child’s life do not understand is that that place is not at the expense of the mother. When you are granted joint custody of your child, you are expected to be a co-parent, who is supposed to respect and preserve your co-parent’s place in your child’s life, just as you would want them to do for you.
Shared parenting is a concept that often is met with skepticism. Many argue against shared parenting on the basis that children need consistency, in order to grow and mature. However, this is rarely based around academic studies that suggest the point.
Studies support shared parenting
Malin Bergstrom, a researcher at the Centre for Health Equity Studies, found in her study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, that children who lived with both of their separated parents reported significantly fewer problems than children who lived with only one parent.
Children also have been shown to improve their academics, so long as they stay attached to both of their separated parents, according to a study from the University of Missouri.
The study applied attachment theory and the importance of the parent-child relationship, to academic success and the academic struggles that a child may experience during a parental divorce. The study showed the importance of early intervention by the parents and how support and communication between co-parents can play a vital role in combating the negative effects of a parental divorce’s impact on a child’s academic achievement.
Divorce and custody issues can bring stress onto a child, but when shared parenting is in place, they face less of that particular health risk, according to a study from Stockholm University.
“There has previously been a concern that shared physical custody could be an unstable living situation, that can lead to children becoming more stressed,” said Jani Turunen, researcher at Stockholm University and Centre for Research on Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Karlstad University. “But those who pointed to it earlier have built their concerns on theoretical assumptions, rather than empirical research.”
They found that children who grow up in a household with only one parent show increased risks of psychiatric disease, suicide or suicide attempts, injury, and addiction. Additionally, boys in single-parent families were more likely to develop psychiatric disease and narcotics-related disease than girls.
A comprehensive research study published in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage compiled 40 different studies that dealt with shared parenting families that state a similar conclusion. They linked shared parenting to better outcomes for children of all ages across a wide range of academic, behavioral, emotional, and physical health measures and did not find any convincing evidence that overnighting or shared parenting was linked to negative outcomes for infants or toddlers.
The study also supported the legislative efforts, in linking domestic violence to negative outcomes, when it comes to shared parenting. These legislative efforts have contingencies built into them that eliminate situations where neglect, domestic violence, abuse, or other forms of criminal activity are present, from being considered for shared parenting.
Shared parenting legislative efforts
Legislative efforts have been ramping in up in recent years that have supported shared parenting. Kentucky has a law in place that creates the presumption that joint custody and equally shared parenting time is in the best interests of the child. The law also requires courts to consider the motivations of adults involved when determining the best interests of the child for custody orders, and states that courts must allow a parent not granted custody or shared parenting, time to petition for reasonable visitation rights.
The release of the National Parenting Organization’s Ohio Parenting Time Report stated that 64 of Ohio’s 88 counties have a parenting time schedule that allows the children only two overnights and 60 hours or less with one of their parents in a two week period. That, paired with the passing of child support reform, has sparked discussion among lawmakers as to whether shared parenting legislation would be beneficial.
In fact, Public Polling Place questioned 556 Ohio voters in October 2018 about shared parenting, and the results showed that 89 percent believe that parents share in the responsibility of raising children regardless of marital status. Of those polled, 77 percent would support a change in Ohio law that would award children equal time with both “fit and willing parents” in instances of divorce.
The state of Virginia passed a family law bill that requires the courts to formally consider joint/shared custody on par with sole custody. It became law effective July 1, 2018.
Importance of the child
As much as you may want to be a part of your child’s life, the custodial decision is not about you. It is about acting in the best interests of the child, which is why domestic violence, neglect, and other criminal activities are disqualifiers for shared parenting.
You need to do right by your child, which means being a stable and loving parent that your child can be proud of and the court can trust. You need to be able to provide a space for your child, so that they can consider both places their parents live to be home. You need to be able to provide for your child, so that their needs are met.
Stability is key. You and your co-parent will be forced to communicate, so in an effort to maintain consistency and discipline, it is important to stay on the same page, so that your shared child has the same experience in both households.
You need to rise above any of the animosity that you may hold toward your co-parent and avoid conflict. In order to instill key values in your child, you need to act in accordance with them and create a better co-parenting relationship for your child’s sake.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.