When parents in Virginia turn to the courts to make child custody decisions, the court will make the decision based on what it believes is in the "best interests of the child." Of course, this doesn't mean making such decisions is easy. Despite the often-equal roles that both fathers and mothers have in raising their child, some courts still stick to the antiquated notion that children should be raised by their mother after a divorce. In fact, in around 80 percent of child custody cases, it is the mother who is awarded sole custody, and the father is only granted visitation. However, is this really in the child's best interests?
There is a growing school of thought, buttressed by empirical evidence, that after a divorce children benefit when each of their parents have an equal amount of parenting time (as much as is possible) with them. Shared parenting, as it is known, is a more flexible arrangement, and it fosters cooperation rather than a "winner takes all" attitude. Shared parenting allows both of the child's parents to develop a meaningful relationship with the child post-divorce. It has also been shown that shared parenting helps children do better in school and makes them happier. It has also been shown that children often prefer this method of parenting.
According to some studies, shared parenting is the preferred option when it comes to kids and divorce. In a May 2015 study of 150,000 people, researchers found that children whose parents practiced shared parenting had less stress in their lives, which in turn improved their health. Some states are turning to shared parenting as the legal norm, rather than automatically awarding the mother sole custody. Unfortunately, Virginia is not one of those states as of right now.
It is hoped by some that Virginia legislators will address these issues and make shared parenting the default when it comes to child custody decisions. When a child's parents divorce, it can be a difficult time for all involved. But through shared parenting, it is possible that all parties reach a workable, and even healthy, relationship moving forward.
Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Christian and Kristen Paasch: Shared parenting helps children following divorces," Christian Paasch and Kristen Paasch, Nov. 19, 2017