Traditionally, when Virginia parents of young children divorce, physical custody is often awarded to the mother. However, this is not necessarily the best option for all families because it puts limitations on how the mother's life can develop, on the relationship between the father and his children, and on the emotional well-being of the children. A growing alternative, which seems to benefit all, is shared custody.
The concept of shared custody, which means that the children spend about equal time with each parent, is the norm in places such as Sweden, and it is gathering support in the United States. The benefits of this type of child custody are far reaching. For children, studies have shown that they want both their parents in their lives after a divorce, and that in fact, having both parents equally involved will help their emotional stability. Fathers benefit since they are able to spend a significant amount of time with their children instead of a strict visitation schedule, which means they are also able to develop strong, lasting bonds with their children. The benefit for mothers is that sharing custody with the fathers allows them to continue to pursue their professional careers, which is something many mothers with sole or primary physical custody have to sacrifice.
Some states, like Kentucky and Missouri, have already passed laws that support shared custody. This support is growing nationwide, since an additional 25 states have considered shared custody legislation in the past year.
Divorcing parents who are negotiating custody might consider the shared parenting option. They might want to have the assistance of their respective attorneys in developing a co-parenting plan.