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On Tuesday, the New York State Assembly Committee for Children and Families will vote on a new joint custody bill that’s causing a lot of controversy in the state.
The proposed legislation, if passed, would award divorced couples equal custody of their children unless there was a compelling reason they shouldn’t get it, such as domestic violence. Under those circumstances, the parent seeking sole custody would be required to prove why the other parent is not a good candidate for joint custody.
Many mothers’ groups say that required shared parenting would be dangerous, especially for victims of child abuse and their children. They also believe the new bill would decrease child support payments and cause more bitterness between ex-spouses.
“Theoretically, it sounds like a great idea,” said Lisa Frisch, executive director of The Legal Project, a part of the Capital District Women’s Association. “In the best of all worlds, it would be great if people could work things out, instead of being a presumption by the court,” she said. “But this is a tremendous burden.”
The New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence also disagrees with the proposal of the new bill, which they say would tear children from a familiar world.
“Research shows that joint custody ordered without the agreement of both parents is not in the best interest of the child. Where one or both parents object to joint custody, court ordered shared custody arrangements result in high degrees of parental conflict,” the coalition’s position statement said.
However, fathers’ rights advocates are working nonstop to get the bill passed. They believe children need both parents, but in this society, most divorced men only receive child visitation rights.
Los Angeles-based radio talk show host, columnist, and commentator Glenn Sacks said almost 17 million children in the U.S. do not live with their father. Sacks who supports the proposed measure, has prompted over 5,000 listeners of his radio show to write letters and emails to lawmakers urging the bill’s passage.
“The bill would protect the loving bonds children share with both parents by establishing joint custody as the preferred parenting arrangement after divorce,” he said.
According to Sacks, a Harvard University study of 517 families found that 10 to 18-year-olds whose divorced parents had joint custody were more settled emotionally and academically than those who were in sole custody arrangements.
Additionally, a Journal of Divorce & Remarriage survey revealed that shared custody aids in reducing conflict between divorced spouses.
Albany County Family Court Judge Gerard Maney would not comment on the proposed legislation, but did say that child custody cases are decided on a case by case basis and are determined depending on what the court feels is in the best interest of the family.
“Arguments on both sides are interesting because this is a nebulous area,” he said. “There is no cookie-cutter approach; one side doesn’t fit all, because…we live in changing times.”