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Fathers' rights a concern with proposed legislation

In the midst of child custody proceedings, judges look at what's in the best interests of the child to determine what sort of custody plan should be in place. Historically mothers would get custody because courts believed that children needed to be with their mothers. But now, custody laws have shifted to a more equitable process.

Now, a bill is being proposed in one state that may cause another shift in custody laws towards supporting fathers' rights. The proposed legislation would require judges to assume joint custody when the divorce proceedings begin.

Supporters of the bill believe that it can help fathers see their children after a divorce. In addition, statistics show that there is a hug gender gap between men and women as to who is determined to be fit to have custody. Nationwide, custody was granted to mothers 85 percent of the time.

Those who oppose the bill are mostly concerned that it will take the focus away from basing custody determinations on the child's best interests. They wonder if joint custody is necessarily always good for the children.

Assuming joint custody at the beginning of the divorce proceedings would give fathers a better chance at getting to spend time with their children after a divorce. This could better protect a father's right to be considered as a custodial parent. In some situations, it may be in the best interests of the child to be with their father.

There are currently seven other states that defer to shared parenting. And though this bill is being proposed in one state, if it passes will other states soon follow?

Source: Argus Leader online, "Bill aimed at helping fathers in custody cases moves ahead," John Hult, 16 February 2011

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