Does Equal Shared Parenting Have a Future in New York?
In the past, most custody decisions reflected old attitudes about gender roles and parenting. Following a divorce, minor sons and daughters would live primarily in the home of one parent, almost always the mother, with the other getting visitation rights. Children spending every other weekend with their fathers and pickups at places like McDonald’s became cultural clichés. Over the past few decades, however, the approach to raising children has changed in many areas, and some states have adjusted their custody laws to reflect the new reality. There seems to be strong support for a change in New York as well, but it remains to be seen if the Domestic Relations Law will change to promote “50-50” custody arrangements.
A 2021 poll conducted by the National Parenting Organization (NPO) found that more than 90 percent of New Yorkers believe that more equitable parenting schedules would be in the best interests of the state’s children. Kentucky has passed a law mandating that custody be divided equally among parents unless one is not fit to provide proper care or some other reason exists why splitting time between homes is preferable. This concept, often referred to as “equal shared parenting” is now being considered in other states, too.
The NPO’s review of every state’s custody laws ranked New York last when it comes to the promotion of shared parenting because the Domestic Relations Law does not explicitly refer to joint custody or similar concepts. These arrangements are permitted and addressed in case law, but revising the statutes might foster some of the benefits associated with equal shared parenting, such as:
- Stronger parent-child relationships — When time with a child is slotted into small segments, it is more likely that that the noncustodial parent will be pushed into a secondary role. This “part-time” status makes it difficult for parent-child bonds to strengthen.
- Better support for sons and daughters — As children grow, they often rely on each parent for different things. Keeping both parents as an everyday presence in their child’s life helps to establish a more supportive environment.
- Reduced conflict between parents — If the noncustodial parent only gets two weekends a month with their son or daughter, an event that the child wants to attend during those times could create a big problem. Equal shared parenting promotes a spirit of cooperation and allows parents to be more flexible.
At least 11 bills have been introduced in Albany to move the law in this direction. Whether New York statutes change or not, you should remember that an experienced child custody attorney can help you negotiate shared parenting arrangements when you feel that is the best way to proceed.
Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP represents parents in divorces and custody disputes across Nassau and Suffolk County. Our firm will work diligently to find a parenting time solution that works for you and your children.