Is Equal Parenting Time Best for Children?

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Nov 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Whether you are facing a contentious divorce or you are resolving your differences amicably, chances are  you and your former spouse are seeking the best parenting solution for your children. For many advocates, the idea of equal parenting time is compelling. For children, it may also seem like the best possible outcome—shared time equally between both parents. A recent analysis in the Washington Post suggests equal parenting may not be the best solution for children.


While some legislative trends have pushed equal parenting time, some child advocates are pushing back, arguing such arrangements are not necessarily the best option for children.

While colonial American law bestowed full physical custody of their children to fathers, denying divorced women any rights to their children, this common law began to shift over time. As women began to gain rights in the legal system, they also fought for the right to child custody. Men became breadwinners and women controlled the domestic sphere. As the legal and cultural landscape changed, so too did women's custody rights. This resulted in the “tender years presumption,” which overwhelmingly favored mothers in custody cases involving young children.

As the roles of women and men continued to shift and change, courts also responded giving more equal rights to both parents at the time of divorce. Fathers' rights groups have also intervened advocating for equal access to legal and physical custody. Rather than follow traditional presumptions or standards, courts will now base custody decisions on the “best interests of the child.”

For example, a court is likely to inquire about who did most of the care-taking, child's school location and which parent had the greater role in the child's life. Of course, courts will also take into consideration potentially dangerous circumstances, including abuse or addiction.

Over time, more courts granted parents shared custody, giving both parents legal and physical custody and equal parenting time. But, is this arrangement the best for children?

According to critics, the new presumption is “shared custody,” even when the arrangement does not line up with the best interests of a child. Giving parents equal custody means children often have two homes, two neighborhoods, two bedrooms and are forced to adjust to very different living situations. This may be more equitable to the parents, but it's not necessarily better for the child.

One alternative to the “equal split” is for both parents to develop a customized parenting plan to meet their child's needs. Our Birmingham divorce attorneys can represent your interests and help to develop a comprehensive parenting plan to best serve the needs of your children. We will help you work collaboratively with your ex to develop a comprehensive solution that meets your family's long-term needs.

When sharing the role of parenting, it is important the agreement work through important issues, including where the child will reside, who will make important health care decisions and who will pay for what. There may be provisions for a future change in circumstances.

Whether you work toward a settlement or need a court-ordered parenting plan, our legal team can help protect your rights and the best interests of your children.

If you are seeking a divorce in Birmingham, contact Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


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