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Does Texas need child custody reform?

It wasn't too long ago when mothers were automatically given primary custody of children and fathers were given visitation rights. But courts today are recognizing how important it is for both parents to play a role in their children's lives.

In fact, many states throughout the nation have changed their child custody laws to encourage "shared" parenting arrangements, where children spend significant time with both parents, instead of primarily living with one.

In 2010, the state of Arizona passed child custody reform that ordered family law judges to maximize the time the child has with each parent according to the child's best interests. Missouri recently enacted a similar law.

Those in support of the reform say it is not just to make fathers happy by giving them more time with their children, they say that children also fare better.

A psychologist from Arizona State University, who was the chairperson of the committee that drafted Arizona's custody reform, studied the outcome of divorce from the child's perspective and found that children preferred having equal access to both parents instead of just one.

He said that in the past, this kind of research was often examined from the mother's perspective, but today researchers are starting to look from the children's point of view.

Child custody decisions in Texas

Still, there are many judges in Texas and other states who believe that children always do best living with their mothers in one home, consistently. Fathers are still facing a difficult time, in many cases, getting to see their children as much as they would like after a divorce.

In some cases, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) becomes a problem when one parent tries to turn the child against the other parent, which is very hard on both the child and the other parent. Therapy is often needed to repair the child's relationship with the other parent. (You can read more about PAS here.)

At this point, Texas has not adopted laws that favor "shared" child custody arrangements, so it is up to both parents and their lawyers to convince the judge why (or why not) a shared custody arrangement is in the child's best interests. (You can read more about how this is done here.)

Source: U.S. News, "Better Time, Better Parents," Leslie Loftis, Sept. 1, 2016

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