Connecticut readers may have heard media coverage of one state's efforts to level the playing field between mothers and fathers when it comes to child custody rights. A new bill has been proposed that would grant equal or joint custody rights to fathers of children who are born out of wedlock. If successful, this would be the first state to do so, and could lead to similar changes in states across the nation.
Proponents of the bill assert that it is time that statutes reflect the changing social structure of our society. As more and more fathers are taking hands-on parenting roles within families, existing laws that favor the rights of mothers should be adjusted. In addition, research shows that children who have active, involved fathers fare better in many areas of life.
Those who oppose the Arizona bill say that granting equal custody rights to unwed fathers opens the door to a wide range of trouble for mothers who raise children on their own. For example, a father would be able to use the new law to force the other parent into a lengthy and stressful court battle and could establish shared custody rights, even if he had no real intention of having a relationship with the child. It also raises questions about whether an uninvolved parent could arbitrarily remove a child from school without the permission of the other parent.
As this bill makes its way through the legislative process, parents in Connecticut and around the nation will watch closely. Should the bill become law, immediate changes will affect parents within that state. Furthermore, such a move could lead other states to consider similar changes, which would bring a drastic reformulation to the way that courts approach fathers' rights and issues of equal and joint custody.
Source: azcentral.com, "Bills would help dads' access to children," Alia Beard Rau, Feb. 2, 2013