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Colorado the latest battleground in shared parenting debate

Many states, including Colorado, are considering bills that would make equal parenting a legal presumption in child custody cases.

Proposed legislation would encourage equal parenting in child custody cases

Dozens of states are currently weighing the pros and cons of so-called equal parenting bills, with Colorado being just one of them. State lawmakers here look set to pass a bill that will encourage equal parenting time in child custody disputes, according to FOX 31 News. The bill will create a legal presumption that shared parenting is in a child's best interests, unless there is evidence to show otherwise. Although such measures have bipartisan support, many family law experts worry the proposal could be a well-meaning piece of legislation with some unintended consequences.

Support for shared parenting

The bill currently before Colorado lawmakers would require family judges to presume that a 50-50 split in parenting time is in a child's best interests when issuing custody orders. Supporters of the bill say that current law tends to favor one parent over the other, thus denying children a relationship with his or her parent and encouraging those parents to take adversarial positions toward one another both in and outside of the courtroom. Such conflict, they argue, is never in a child's best interests.

In order to protect children from being placed with unfit parents, however, judges would still be allowed to award unequal parenting time or even sole custody in some cases. However, in these cases the judge would have to provide a written explanation behind his or her reasoning.

Against shared parenting

Critics of the measure have claimed that while shared parenting laws are well-meaning, they can lead to unintended consequences for vulnerable children and parents. One concern is that automatically presuming equal parenting time is in a child's best interests will lead to some children ending up in the hands of abusive parents. While the bill has some safeguards to protect against such situations arising, critics say they are insufficient.

Additionally, many critics of the bill agree that while equal parenting is often in a child's best interests, they say that mandating it through law is unnecessary, according to the Wall Street Journal. They point out that current law requires judges to tailor custody orders to a child's best interests, which in recent years has led to an increase in the number of custody orders involving a 50-50 split in parenting time. Critics contend, therefore, that current law is sufficient for ensuring 50-50 parenting time is ordered when it actually is in the child's best interests.

Child custody issues

Divorce is already one of the most difficult experiences many couples will have to go through and when disputes around child custody arise the challenges can be particularly painful. A qualified and compassionate family law attorney should always be consulted about any child custody issue. With emotions running high in such cases, it is important to have the professional and expert advice that only an attorney can provide in order to protect the rights of parents and their families in the months and years to come.

Keywords: divorce, children, custody

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