Child custody and support has always been a touchy issue. The family laws in place are a general guideline that gets applied to thousands of different scenarios every year. It’s impossible to create a law that fits each unique situation, so a lot of parents and children don’t get their specific needs met.
Rachel Alexander at Townhall believes that she’s found a solution. “Shared Parenting” is the idea that instead of the usual sole-custody-with-parental-visitation-model that’s so commonly used now, divorced parents should split parenting duties, time and costs equally. There would be no child support, which she considers to be the biggest problem with current family law practices, and children would alternate weeks at their parent’s home.
In a perfect world, where both parents put equal effort and time into their children, this would be a wonderful solution. If both parents lived in the same school zone and have relatively regular work schedules, if both parents are capable of providing for a child independently, if the child feels as comfortable with both their parents… You see where I’m going. That’s a lot of ‘if’s. In a world where (hopefully) co-parenting is becoming the norm, it still does not fit the majority of divorced families.
Getting sole physical custody of the children after a divorce used to automatically go to a woman. It was assumed that the husband was the breadwinner, the wife stayed home and took care of the children. So it made sense to maintain as much of that structure as possible. Now, we can’t operate under the same assumptions. We have to consider that both parents may be working, both parents may be involved and both parents may want custody. The court needs to consider these possibilities, but it should not dramatically change and assume that every family now fits a new mold. Just like the old format didn’t always apply, neither does this.
I cannot imagine a judge telling me that a man who has never had a bed for our daughter, who has never been to a doctor’s appointment, and who doesn’t know our babysitter’s last name deserved to have joint custody of our child. A co-worker of mine was in the same position, expect it was his wife who never bothered to get involved in raising their children.
Instead of one plan that we try to squeeze each family into, we need to have various options for families to choose from. We need to have mandatory mediating before the situation goes to a judge. We need to help families find a solution that works for them, instead of imagining that every divorced couple fits the same mold, whether its the archaic stereotypical gender roles or the up-and-coming co-parenting craze. Each family is different and each child deserves a system that works for them.