Up until the late 1970s, the prevailing theory about child custody was that children needed a strong attachment to one parent or another. In nearly all cases, that parent was the mother. In fact, especially in family law cases from the 1950s and 1960s, most courts awarded child custody to the mother with no questions asked.
Then, the family began to change, mostly because of the advent of no-fault divorce laws beginning in California in 1970. Simply because of the law of averages, more divorced dads meant more fathers who wanted to have relationships with their children. At the same time, many long-held stereotypes about the roles and abilities of men and women started to break down. Finally, in a somewhat related area, some advocates opined that more contact between fathers and children might increase voluntary compliance with child support orders.
All these factors combined to create joint custody laws in the 1980s. “Joint custody” does not necessarily mean a 50-50 split in terms of the children’s residence. Instead, the term refers to a shared parenting relationship regarding where the children reside and who makes important legal decisions.
Rethinking Joint Custody
Over the last decade or so, however, the American family has changed again. In fact, less than half of American children currently live in a “traditional” household that consists of a man and woman who have never been married to anyone else and their pure biological children.
Now that there is a substantially higher body of evidence, some observers feel that joint custody is not the panacea it was once thought to be. Children that spend the night at two or more houses in a single week may not have a sense of home; this situation is especially problematic for autistic or any other children who have problems dealing with changes in routine. Furthermore, each household has different rules and dynamics, especially if the parents remarry and have stepchildren. Finally, successful joint custody requires the ex-spouses to communicate and have at least a cordial relationship, and that is certainly not always the case.
Visitation in North Carolina
Joint custody is still the preferred arrangement in the Tarheel State, and it can still work, provided that the parents are committed to the idea and the plan is tailored to the family’s needs. One idea is to minimize contact between the parents. For example, the traditional 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday can be changed to when school ends Friday to when it resumes after the weekend. Or, instead of an exchange at a parent’s house, that exchange can take place at a park or restaurant.
Moreover, potential conflict areas can be addressed in advance; for example, the decree can include provisions like “the children shall be raised Catholic” to avoid disputes in this area.
Rely on Experienced Family Law Attorneys
At Remington & Dixon, we are committed to finding sustainable solutions that uphold your legal rights. For prompt assistance from an experienced family law attorney in Charlotte, contact us today. We routinely handle cases in Mecklenburg County and nearby jurisdictions.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.