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Child Custody Litigation: Child Centered vs. Parental Equality

The reality of modern times is that children are increasingly divided between two households—whether it be because the parents never lived together, or the parents divorced or separated–dual household parental relationships are on the rise. These relationships work out just fine for children of parents that are able to work well together in a healthy and child-focused co-parenting relationship within which the children have frequent and continuing access to both parents. However, child custody and divorce lawyers know all too well the harsh reality that exists when the co-parenting relationship is less than functional and strays from being child-focused to parental animosity or a desire for “fair and equal” parental time.

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Too often child custody litigation involves two parents fighting more for their rights as parents than for what is actually best for their children. The animosity present from unrelated issues (usual from a divorce) bleeds into the custody battle clouding otherwise sound parental judgment. These types of cases make divorce lawyers wealthy and clog the family law courtrooms with cases that judges, quite frankly, do not want to hear. These cases always end with the family law judge sternly lecturing the parents about the petty nature of their disagreements and how they are destroying the lives of their children. Any experienced family law attorney will tell you that the focus of the family court judge in a child custody case is the children—and only the children.

“When my client tells me that he wants 50/50 custody; my first question is: Do you think that a 50/50 custody plan is what is best for your children?” says John Griffith, a child custody lawyer in Encinitas, California. The reality is that a 50/50 child custody plan, although it sounds fair, is not always what is best for the children.

An equal 50/50 child custody plan should always be the starting point. However, the unique circumstances of each case may warrant a deviation from a truly equal parental timeshare. The following of examples of circumstances within which a 50/50 custody plan is usually not the best thing for the kids:

-The parents live in different cities or too far away from each other to make it feasible for the children to go to the same school while living half time in each household.

-One parent has a job that requires frequent out of town travel or abnormal work hours such that the children would be left in third party care for significant periods of time.

-One or more of the children is an infant of tender years with the mother breast feeding.

These are just a few of the examples of situations within which equal parenting may be deemed inappropriate. Believe it or not, family court judges still see litigants asking for equal parenting even given these circumstances.

Child custody litigation is difficult for everyone involved. The keys to success are child centered focus, realistic expectations, genuineness of purpose, and most importantly—compromise. If you or someone you know is in need of a child custody lawyer, call the experienced attorneys at Griffith, Young & Lass for a free 30-minute consultation.