Few people would dispute that, barring acts of domestic violence, a child benefits the most when he or she is raised by both parents. Does or should divorce change the important role that each parent plays in a child life? According to the findings of a recent report by the National Parents' Organization, many states are failing when it comes to making child custody decisions that ensure a child has equal access to both his or her mother and father.
Studies show that children who are raised by two parents fair better emotionally and academically than children who are raised by single parents. To illustrate this point, statistics provided by the U.S. government indicate that 90 percent of U.S. children who are homeless runaways come from single parent homes. Additionally, 85 percent of children who are diagnosed with behavioral disorders and 75 if those in chemical abuse centers come from single parent homes.
Given these alarming statistics, it seems obvious that when possible family courts should make child custody decisions that favor joint or shared child custody. However, the NPO report shows that in 80 percent of U.S. child custody cases, states award a mother sole custody.
For the report, researchers evaluated and graded each state based upon the state's child custody statues in favoring joint or shared custody. For example, researchers looked at whether a state's statutes included, encouraged and preferred provisions related to shared parenting.
When evaluating states based upon the "degree to which they promote shared parenting after divorce or separation," 25 states received a grade of D or F. A total of 18 states, including Florida, received Cs and eight states, including Washington D.C., received Bs. No states received an A.
The findings of the report are troubling given the numerous studies which indicate that children raised in shared parenting situations have "lower levels of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, truancy and other negative behaviors" when compared against children raised by single parents.
Being a parent in today's world comes with many challenges. The economic, professional and personal challenges associated with raising a child are typically compounded in cases where a child's parents divorce. The NPO report proves that family courts throughout the U.S. need to do a better job at making child custody decisions that truly reflect the best interests of our country’s children.
Source: National Parents Organization, “STATE-BY-STATE ANALYSIS HIGHLIGHTS PARENTAL INEQUALITY ACROSS THE NATION,"
USA Today, "Report: States fail on shared parenting laws," Jonathan Ellis, Nov. 13, 2014
National Parents Organization, "2014 Shared Parenting Report Card A New Look At Child Welfare A State-by-State Ranking," 2014