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How child custody has changed in recent decades

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While family law matters were not supposed to resemble a battle of the sexes, sometimes it felt that way in the past when mothers were usually granted sole physical custody of their children after a divorce. After 1980, courts started recognizing joint custody as a better option for children. Courts in Georgia and other states are now more likely to believe joint physical custody should be awarded unless there is a valid reason preventing it.

Joint custody is often considered the new normal but that doesn’t mean a child lives with both parents year-round. Practicality and logistical concerns do not always allow for joint physical custody, and this form of custody still often goes to the mother. However, there has been a rise in shared custody. A 2014 study looking at Wisconsin divorce records found that 5 percent of divorces with children in 1980 involved shared physical custody while 3 percent of cases involved unequal shared custody.

In 2008, the amount of equal residential custody rose to 27 percent while unequal shared custody also increased to 18 percent. According to the same study, mothers received sole custody in 80 percent of the cases studied in 1980. In 2008, mothers received sole custody in only 42 percent of cases.

Courts typically believe it is in the best interests of children to have a relationship with both parents after a divorce. Parents who are willing to work together with the help of their respective attorneys could have an easier time reaching a parenting agreement. Negotiation or mediation may provide less costly and time-consuming avenues for these parents.

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