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Shared parenting movement spurs child custody trend among fathers

One question that might be asked in Florida and anywhere that U.S. family law matters are discussed is, "Why are more single men heading up households than ever before?" The answer may lie in the fact that judges in some states are following revamped guidelines for awarding child custody in divorce. The new rules handed down to family law courts by state legislatures redefine what is meant by "the best interests of the child," the gold standard of priorities in custody disputes.

A movement toward shared parenting was gaining acceptance in more states as the country's demographics have shifted over the past 60 years. Since a greater number of women work outside the home, shared-parenting advocates say, there is really no reason to continue defining a child's best interests as "living with the mother." The concept prescribes a 50/50 time split, with joint legal and physical custody between both parents. This still leaves the question of why single-dad households have been on the rise.

The answer appears to be that divorced and single fathers, a group that felt marginalized by the court system's favoring of mother-only households for decades, were given a lift in confidence by the shared parenting movement. This was due, analysts say, to the movement making men feel like their contributions to their children's lives were valuable. In turn, this opened single dads up to the idea of seeking full physical custody on a societal level.

As shared parenting becomes closer to the courts' definition of the best interests of the child, both fathers and mothers may feel relief from splitting the responsibilities needed to raise children. In some cases like relocation, however, physical custody must go to one parent or the other. A divorce attorney may be able to answer questions that one may have about seeking custody and becoming a single parent.

Source: The Atlantic, "The Rise of the Single Dad", Caroline Kitchener , February 24, 2014

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