California resident Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from her husband Brad Pitt, and she is asking for sole physical custody of the couple's six children. Obtaining sole custody, rather than joint custody, is becoming increasingly rare in divorce cases. In fact, many states have enacted shared parenting laws that make joint custody the default ruling.
California is not one of the states with shared parenting laws, and equal custody is only favored in the state's family court system when both parents request it. A family law attorney in Illinois who has also worked in California said that family court rulings in California tend to favor mothers. Meanwhile, states like Utah and Missouri have recently enacted laws that require family courts to rule in favor of joint physical custody barring any special circumstances.
Psychologists that have studied how living with one or both parents affects children after a divorce have found that joint physical custody is preferable. Maintaining a relationship with both parents after a divorce is not only beneficial for a child's mental health, but it benefits the child's physical health as well. A study in 2007 showed that stress-related illnesses and other health problems were less common in children that divided their time between each of their parents' homes.
A parent who is going through a divorce in a state that does not favor joint custody may want to try to work out a joint custody agreement outside of court. An attorney can represent a parent during the divorce and mediation process and help to maintain effective communication with the other parent.