Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why Equally Shared Parenting is Best For Children

Shared Parenting

Attorney Lori Barkus explains why equal time-sharing is in the best interest of the children of divorce.

A parents separation or divorce may end their relationship, but parents must be encouraged to work together to ensure that both remain a part of their children’s lives.
Historically, courts favored mothers having “custody” and fathers having “visitation”. Courts began to recognize how damaging these labels are (and possibly unconstitutional) and lawmakers began rewriting custody laws to reflect the concept of time-sharing. States then began moving in the direction of shared parenting.
Although courts are becoming more receptive to shared parenting, not every court or Judge is on board. Judges must make custody decisions based on a “best interest of the child” standard. This phrase sounds comforting, but, since judges are not required to explain their decisions, many argue the standard is nebulous. Many Judges retain the belief that it’s preferable for children to have one primary residence. Although there is a plethora of research showing this is not the case, many remain unaware or unwilling to acknowledge it.
During Florida’s last legislative session, lawmakers passed an alimony reform bill that included a rebuttable presumption of equal timesharing, with the following exceptions:
  • The safety, well being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child would be endangered by equal time-sharing
  • Clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances justify a departure from equal time-sharing with written findings justifying the departure.
  • Incarceration
  • The distance between residences makes equal time-sharing impracticable.
  • A parent does not request at least 50-percent time-sharing.
  • A permanent injunction has been entered or is warranted against a parent or household member.
  • Domestic violence
Equal time-sharing never became law because Gov Rick Scott vetoed the bill. As a practicing family attorney, I have seen, all too often, children become pawns in their parents divorce. A shared parenting bill prevents the minimization of one parent, usually the father, from a child’s life. In many of these “every other weekend” scenarios, a child loses out on time with his/her father and 50% of the child’s extended family as well. Additionally, the lesser-earning parent opposes equal time-sharing because it will lower their monthly child support payment. A parent is then forced to try and “buy” time with his/her children, meaning that the parent pays full child support just to get the other parent to agree to equal time-sharing.
Child custody is not a gender issue. Ask any daughter who grew up without a father, any mother of a divorced son, any paternal grandmother, sisters of divorced brothers, stepmothers or others. Groups of women are now starting to assemble to change the system that hurts both them and our children. Leading Women for Shared Parenting (LW4SP) is such a group and I am proud to be a member. LW4SP has one cause: a rebuttable presumption of Equally Shared Parenting in Family Law. While such will help both women and men, we believe the voice of a group of strong women will be required to correct the messaging about current family law practices.
For years, womens’ groups have opposed shared parenting presumptions. What opponents fail to take into account is that presumptions are rebuttable. Presumptions provide a starting point, a leveling of the playing field, removing the winner takes all approach to child custody- a framework that is in no one’s best interest. There are some exceptional cases in which shared parenting is inappropriate or where one parent cannot spend equal time with the children, due to work or other reasons. A judge can order more or less time sharing if an equal time-sharing arrangement is truly detrimental or impossible. There are parents (fathers mostly, as 85% of custodial parents are currently mothers) who are able and willing to spend equal time with their children. No child should be denied the participation of two capable and loving parents and no parent should be forced to bargain for or purchase time with their children.
Parents are presumed equal during the marriage. What changed in the equality equation once the marriage ends? Children need and want both parents in their lives, not as visitors, but as active and equal participants. That’s why shared parenting is best for children.
Photo: Flickr/Lewisha1990
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About Lori Barkus Esq
Lori Barkus, P.A. is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, in addition to the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law Mediator, a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Collaborative Family Lawyers of South Florida. Lori handles matters involving : divorce, custody, child support, paternity, Collaborative Divorce, adoption, parental rights, Labor and Employment litigation and family law and civil mediation. You can find out more about her at

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Response to Arguments Against Shared Parenting

Attorney Bill Eddy offered these Thoughts on Shared Parenting Presumptions – Part I where argues against a shared parenting presumption. His arguments seemed rather poor to me and I entered this response. Since I don't know if this comment is going to be allowed (it hasn't posted yet), I repost it here, so it doesn't get lost:

"Thanks for this post and for raising these issues, which I am currently researching both for personal and scholarly interest. My understanding of them is very much in development. But, based on my understanding of these issues so far, I have these reactions. 
First, a shared parenting *presumption* does not *impose* relatively equal parenting time: that would be for a final judgment. 
But a presumption is just a presumption, and presumptions can be overridden for good reasons. 
My understanding is that now, in most states, there is at least a “de facto” presumption in favor of one parent having the child(ren) most of the time. I do not know if this is an official presumption anywhere (again, my knowledge here is limited) but at least in my state, ‘the system’ is set up that way: e.g., the child support system presumes that one parent will have the child(ren) most of the time.
To deviate from that system, in favor of a 50/50 shared parenting arrangement, is an uphill battle: at least that’s the experience of many parents. This battle results from a defacto presumption against shared parenting. 
How “burdensome” is it to override a 50-50 presumption? How burdensome is it to override a presumption in favor of a non-custodial parent having their child(ren) every other weekend and one night a week? 
How do these burdens compare? Which presumption, at least of these two options, is a better starting place? 
You write that you “have fought for and won 50-50% schedules”. Would that fight have been easier, and less expensive for the client, with a 50-50 presumption? 
You say “it would be a step backwards to now impose such a broad presumption.” But if there is a current presumption in place, would it be a step forward to *reject* it? 
Finally, a presumption of any kind doesn’t “take away” any need for flexible thinking or anything else. A presumption doesn’t have, or needn’t have, any of the bad consequences you suggest: it doesn’t preclude flexibility, doesn’t prevent change, doesn’t prevent the need for teamwork, or anything that you mention in the second half of your essay. 
There are complex issues here, and each case is different, but as a matter of policy, I don’t see good reasons here to recommend strongly against a presumption of relatively equal parenting time since, prima facie and all else being equal, that is the best outcome for all involved, the parents and child(ren).

Again, thank you for posting this. I look forward to your future posts on this issue, and hope to find your past posts."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Parenting Time Deviation

Some good posts on parenting time deviations:

The post notes that ". . The statute, however, gives no guidelines for what the deviation should be."

And here's a case where a parent was denied a deviation:
707 S.E.2d 344 (2011) 
WILLIS v. WILLIS; and vice versa.
Nos. S10F1357, S10F1358.Supreme Court of Georgia.January 24, 2011.
Reconsideration Denied February 28, 2011

Friday, July 12, 2013


Creating a legal presumption for shared parenting is much more difficult than making changes so that it is a more readily available option. It seems to me that the current system makes a shared parenting option hard to exercise because of 
(a) the 'primary physical custodian' designation [which is not legally required: the law doesn't require that there be a primary physical custodian] and 
(b) the child support system being built around that person and 
(c)  there being no standardized way to factor parenting time deviations (at least according to what most lawyers say, as far as I know), thus a 'battle' to deviate away from the formula as it currently is with the primary physical custodian receiving a windfall, sometimes. 

It seems to me that a better system would begin by: 
(1) asking what sort of parenting plan or time with the child is sought and presenting some options for parenting plans, ranging from 50-50 with various schedules, to various other options, ending in an 'every other weekend and one night a week' and 
(2) some kind of child support 'formula' that addresses these different scenarios. 

Obviously the state will allow 50-50 shared parenting, but people have to work hard to make it happen. If it were a more readily available option, that would likely make it more readily exercised. 

It sounds like what I am suggesting is that there be no official presumption of any custody arrangement. This would be better, I think, than the current at least de facto presumption that the children be with one parent most of the time.

Friday, July 5, 2013

GA Organizations and Efforts

Recently found!

Fair Family Law Project 

Guideline Economics 

Rogers Economics: 

Reposting a relevant story

Found on

New Arizona law encourages more joint parenting

BY: The Associated PressPublished: December 26, 2012 at 9:37 am
New Arizona law encourages more joint parentingAn Arizona law that goes into effect Tuesday encourages divorced parents to do more joint parenting.
The law requires courts to adopt plans that increase as much as possible both parents’ time with a child and forbids judges from giving one parent preference based on the parent’s or child’s gender.
The Arizona Republic reports ( that, under the new law, judges now must fine any parent who lies to the court or tries to delay court proceedings. Such fines were previously optional.
Physical custody will now be called parenting time and legal custody will now be called legal decision-making authority. Parents with decision-making authority have power over decisions of a child’s health and education and over personal-care matters such as haircuts and ear piercing.
There are stricter reporting requirements for parents to notify the other parent when they move a significant distance away. And the new law still requires judges to make decisions based on the children’s best interest, but their best interest now includes maximum time for both parents.
“We are moving away from the every-other-weekend custody arrangements or Mom automatically being named the custodial parent,” said Mesa family-law attorney Billie Tarascio.
The law is among a handful of new statutes that take effect Tuesday.
The new laws include a measure that increases the continuing-education requirements for real-estate brokers and makes changes to the course requirements.
Arizona is among the states leading the push for shared parenting time.
A handful of other states have passed similar laws aimed at parents in recent years. Unlike Arizona, which gives judges authority to decide exactly how much time each parent gets, many states have minimum requirements. Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Dakota, for example, now require that each parent get at least 40 percent parenting time.
The standard visitation of every other weekend and one night a week adds up to about 20 percent parenting time for the non-custodial parent.
Other states have considered increasing parenting time. The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill this year to give the non-custodial parent at least 35 percent parenting time, up from 25 percent. But the governor vetoed it.
Advocates for mothers’ rights say the laws are a ploy to help fathers. Groups that combat domestic violence are watching the effort closely to assure it doesn’t expose children to an abusive parent.
The Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence initially opposed the law but later changed its stance to neutral after lawmakers made some adjustments.
Phoenix family-law attorney Tom Morton said he doesn’t expect a flood of parents seeking changes in their parenting time as soon as the law goes into effect. He said the change will likely be gradual. Courts require that a parent have some sort of change in circumstances before requesting a change in custody arrangements, and a change in law would not apply.

Read more:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Related Google searches

Some Google searches that bring up material relevant to, but often importantly distinct from, shared parenting include these:

"Georgia joint custody"

Comment: custody is both legal and physical. But "joint physical custody" might not imply equal or close to equal physical custody. 

"Georgia joint physical custody"

Comment: this is better. A barrier to this though is that many documents, including child support worksheets, have a place to enter the "primary physical custodian" or the individual who has "primary physical custody." This concept, which is not a legal requirement, is a barrier to shared parenting, in many ways. This will be discussed later. 
"Atlanta shared parenting"

"Atlanta shared custody"

"Georgia fathers rights"
Comment: many of these results pertain to fathers not married to the mother, or cases where paternity is in question or hasn't been legally established. These factors add an additional  layer of complexity; this page currently won't be exploring those issues. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

About the National Parents Organization

Reposting information about this organization:

National Parents Organization is the national voice for family law reform.  National Parents Organization, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3), organization, is reforming the family courts to ensure equal treatment for fathers and mothers which, in turn, further guarantees the well-being of their children; to make shared parenting after separation or divorce the norm; and to ensure that finances after separation or divorce are distributed equitably. 
National Parents Organization recognizes that preserving a strong bond between children and their parents is critically important to children’s emotional, mental, and physical health. Society supports shared parenting in theory, but the practice is suffering from a lack of proactive support by our courts, legislatures, and systems. Our objective is to change the “default” position of laws, court orders, and social attitudes in general to see shared parenting as the best possible outcome for raising all children – whether or not the parents are together.
Our Mission
National Parents Organization improves the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting every child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. We seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.
Our Vision
National Parents Organization’s vision is a society in which:
  • Children are happier and more successful because their loving bonds are protected after parental separation or divorce;
  • Children have a natural right to be nurtured and guided by both parents;
  • Society treats fathers and mothers as equally important to the wellbeing of their children;
  • Shared parenting after separation or divorce is the norm;
  • The courts arrange finances after separation or divorce so that both mothers and fathers can afford to house and care for their children and themselves; and
  • Our society understands and respects the essential role of fathers.
Core Principles
Our core principles are:
  • Shared Parenting: Shared parenting protects children’s best interests and the loving bonds children share with both parents after separation or divorce.
  • Parental Equality: Equality between genders has been extended to every corner of American society, with one huge exception: family courts and the related agencies.
  • Respect for Human and Property Rights: The Supreme Court of the United States has found that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children... is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Re-posting from a Georgia Family Law blog

March 22, 2007


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