In Pennsylvania and across the country, courts deciding child custody cases in the past often exhibited a preference for awarding primary physical custody to the mother and awarding visitation rights to the father. There were exceptions to the rule, but the typical outcome was primary custody for the mother.
Over the years those practices have changed, and joint custody is now far more common. However, the change has not been uniform in all locations, and there is still a strong public perception that courts under-award parenting time to fathers. A recent study found that there is a strong public preference for joint custody, and that courts are in danger of being out of touch with the public's desires if they fail to award joint child custody whenever possible.
The authors of the study used data from polls and ballot initiatives to examine public attitudes about joint child custody. They found a consistent public preference for equal custody arrangements.
Furthermore, the researchers surveyed people about their attitudes on child custody. Using hypotheticals, the survey asked people what custody arrangement they preferred if, before the divorce, the parents shared child care duties equally, or if the mother provided most of the care, or if the father provided most of the care.
Pittsburgh child custody attorneys noted that the researchers found that the survey respondents favored joint custody in all of the hypotheticals above. The respondents even favored joint custody in cases where there was a lot of conflict between the parents.
The lead author of the study said, "Decision-makers need to recognize the widespread opposition to the current standards that award equal custody only rarely. If they think those standards are nonetheless necessary, they need to be more active in defending and justifying their preferences to the public."
The journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law will publish the study this month.
Source: Psych Central "Public Support Rising for Joint Custody" 5/3/2011