Custody and Access to Children
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Most people who divorce with children are able to decide what is in the best interests of their child without having to go to court to have the judge make the decision for them. In fact, it is usually a whole industry of health care and legal professionals who make the decisions and most family court judges merely ratify their recommendations, which more likely than not will be to share custody and access. Each parent is required to support themselves and their children which is presumed to be 50/50 unless there has been a disparity in income levels. In custody cases there are several presumptions that are believed to be in the best interests of the child although research in this chapter challenges most of the presumptions that are not supported by scientific research. We give examples of how shared parental custody and responsibility may not be in the best interests in families where there is domestic violence and child abuse or when one parent is not as available or competent as the other. Nor is the friendly parent in front of the judge or the child custody evaluators necessarily the best parent as many who abuse their power and control can manipulate and harass to get what they demand. Keeping siblings together may be harmful in families where sibling rivalry or mental illness in one of the children will compromise the development of the others. Forcing a parent to remain in the same geographic location even when better opportunities are elsewhere may also not be in the best interests of the child. The chapter is critical of the current child custody process and makes suggestions on other types of access to children. Research shows judges have bias against women when they allege abuse to themselves or their children by the fathers. The bias is shown to be worse when the father claims the mother is alienating him from the children and negates the reports of abuse placing both the mother and child in danger (Meier, 2019). Unfortunately child custody evaluators are recommending dangerous custodial arrangements attempting to conform with the law even though most laws have room for modification of the presumptions. Assessment of competent parenting skills and a thorough model custody and parental fitness evaluation is included. Resolving the Hague International Convention cases where children reside in two countries is also discussed.
KeywordsChild custody evaluation Parental fitness evaluation Best interests of the child Equal time-sharing presumption Hague Convention Parental alienation Child abuse Domestic violence
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