In many cases, a California father who is going through a divorce will be concerned about losing access. This is not unfounded, as census data reveals that courts award mothers physical custody in the great majority of cases. However, an alternative to either parent having primary custody is shared custody. This is growing in popularity and has become commonplace in some countries such as Australia and Sweden. Surveys have found there is widespread public support for shared custody, and a few states have enacted legislation that make it the default arrangement in judicial custody determinations.
Perhaps the most important reason for seeking joint custody is the body of scientific evidence that supports its beneficial effect on children. Many professionals believe that even very young children benefit from shared custody situations. This arrangement helps children maintain meaningful relationships with both parents and provides stability. A shared custody arrangement may also help prevent a stressful and lengthy custody battle which can be trying for both children and their parents.
There is also research showing that children raised in single-parent households may have poorer outcomes. For example, federal statistics reveal that 85 percent of people in prison, 71 percent of high school dropouts and 85 percent of children who have behavioral disorders are from single-parent households.
If one parent is determined to pursue primary custody while the other wants shared custody, there still may be ways to resolve this issue through family law alternatives. For example, mediation is an approach to conflict resolution that seeks to work toward a cooperative solution. Litigation is a more adversarial approach although a judge makes a decision about child custody based on the best interests of the child. Even if parents are unable to reach an agreement about shared custody, a judge may agree to this in litigation. A parent who wishes to pursue shared custody should discuss this goal and strategies with an attorney.