Many in El Paso, Texas might not expect the area of parenting time in family law cases as an area of change, but it is. Since the 70’s there is a different perspective on how courts and parents view the issue of child custody and visitation. Though the best interest of the child remains the overriding concern, courts often look differently at what constitutes the best interest.
Legal custody refers to the court designation of which parent will make the major decision affecting the child’s life. Decisions such as schooling and medical care fall on the legal custodian. Physical custody refers to the parent the child will reside with. Visitation or parenting time is the contact the child has with the noncustodial parent.
As late as the 1980s, the mother in a divorce case was granted sole custody in more than 75 percent of contested cases. Shared physical custody situations were rare, occurring in less than ten percent of cases. At the time, courts preferred a single parent as custodian. Visitation was scheduled, usually on weekends for the other parent.
Attitudes of child rearing among separated or divorced parents changed over the years. By 2008, the cases where the mother has sole custody has decreased by nearly one half. Shared custody arrangements can now be seen in over 25 percent of cases. Fathers with higher incomes and education seek shared custody on a more frequent basis. A number of reasons have been given for the change in custodial arrangements but courts are seeing the benefits of shared custody and providing children with more interaction with both parents.
For a parent with a child custody issue, emotions are inherently high. Despite trends, each case can be different, with a wide variety of factors to be considered before an order is decreed. An experienced family law attorney might be helpful.