Joint custody, like sole custody, can work well or not at all. What matters is the mental health of the parents and the quality of child-parent relationships. Needs can often change with a child's age.
While one size does not fit all, it's difficult to object to an increased emphasis on shared parenting for divorced parents. This doesn't necessarily mean equal time, but an amicable commitment of time and cooperation. Governments spend $4 billion a year to collect financial support but only $109 million annually on parenting education, counseling, mediation and other things.
The emotional benefits stemming from a parent's psychological participation in a child's life are harder to measure than the benefits paid for by hard cash. Mr. Levy objects to such a facile interpretation. "The lack of two parents in a child's life is the most significant fact producing more crime, drugs, lack of school performance, and teenage pregnancy in young people," he says. Such data has been used in campaigns to foster fatherhood in single parent families, but he doesn't think enough has been said on behalf of those fathers of divorce who remain vulnerable to vindictive wives. Preliminary data even suggests that certain states with high joint custody rates have lower divorce rates, suggesting that if you can't get your "ex" out of your life maybe you might as well consider reconciliation. This might be the greatest benefit of all for the kids.
The Children's Rights Council has become more mainstream -- perhaps even mellower -- than when it was founded 20 years ago, reflecting the mellowing of feminists who sought "liberation" from the home, directing venom at men and delivering it through the children. Divorce has declined or flattened since as post-feminism attitudes have revived the importance of family life for both men and women. It's difficult to find someone to disagree with the council's mantra: "The Best Parent is Both Parents." How to accomplish that is another matter. We'll be working on that for as long as children are the rewards of marriage.
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