Virginia parents who are divorcing may appreciate the fact there is a push for child custody reform in many states across the country, and some states have enacted legislation. Missouri is the latest state to do so. Other states that also have reform laws include South Dakota, Minnesota and Utah. Arizona issued a policy proposal encouraging a more egalitarian treatment of child custody in 2010, and that has been deemed to be a success.
Child custody reform bills encourage judges to emphasize equality in parenting time where both parents have responsibility. Previously, courts have favored mothers when it came to awarding physical custody, with fathers getting some type of visitation schedule.
Missouri's law instead forbids judges from making custody and visitation decisions based on the gender of the parents or the age of the children. The Wall Street Journal reports that similar bills were pending in 20 other states. The idea behind the shared parenting child custody reform laws is that the child's interests are best served when parents maintain similar roles to what they had before the parents decided to divorce or separate.
The best interests of the child is the standard in child custody rulings, and they are determined by the court's weighing of various factors that are outlined in the state's statutes. A parent who is preparing to divorce might want to discuss the factors with a family law attorney and to ask what type of child custody and visitation arrangement might be expected. The attorney might suggest attempting to negotiate an agreement or, if that is not possible, mediation as an alternative to having a court make the decision.