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Shared physical custody becoming more common

In Connecticut and around the country, courts have been moving towards including shared physical custody arrangements as part of a divorce order. More courts are doing so unless other issues exist that would make it a poor choice.

Historically, courts awarded women sole physical custody in nearly all of the cases. In 1980, for example, sole custody was awarded to women in 83 percent of the cases. By 2008, that rate had dropped to 42 percent. Cases in which custody is shared equally also increased during that time, from 5 percent in 1980 to 27 percent in 2008.

The manner in which the father's parenting role is viewed has changed is one reason. Previously, courts believed mothers were better equipped to raise their children. However, the important role of fathers in parenting is now more recognized. While joint custody is becoming more common, it is still not the norm. Many parents have unequal custody arrangements, and some courts still order sole custody for the mothers with limited visitation for the fathers.

Another reason that shared custody arrangements are becoming more common is that it is better for the children to have liberal time with both parents. Developing strong familial relationships with both parents may help children to be better adjusted as they grow up. However, if there has been evidence of domestic violence or substance abuse, it is unlikely that shared custody will be ordered, as it would not pass the best interests of the child standard. Parents can also negotiate their own arrangement with the assistance of their respective attorneys and then present it to the court for its approval.

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