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Report gives Texas a 'C' for its child custody statutes

The advocacy group National Parents Organization recently published an eye-opening, first-of-its-kind report assigning letter grades to each of the 50 states based on the degree to which their child custody statutes promote shared parenting.

For those who are unfamiliar with the notion of shared parenting, it is essentially an accommodating arrangement whereby the children of divorce or separation are ensured equal time with both parents.

Here, the NPO awarded the letter grades based on the following criteria:

  • Whether the statutes expressly permit shared parenting.
  • Whether the statutes encourage shared parenting.
  • Whether the statutes demonstrate a preference for shared parenting.
  • Whether the statutes establish a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting even in those instances where parents disagree.

Somewhat surprisingly, the final grades issued to the 50 states weren't exactly stellar, coming in with a collective GPA of 1.63 on a scale of 4.0. Indeed, no states received an A, eight states received a B, 18 states received a C, 23 states received a D and two states received an F.

"Despite what you might believe, shared parenting is not the norm in instances of divorce and separation," said the founder and chair of NPO. "Our report highlights that many states are not only discouraging shared parenting, but they are also depriving children of what they benefit from most -- ample time with both of their parents -- while also enabling a system that fosters parental inequality."

How did Texas fare?

The NPO researchers gave Texas a C for its shared parenting law. Here, the "positives" for the Lone Star State are that its statutes provide the following: 1) a presumption of joint legal custody, 2) a policy statement encouraging shared parenting, and 3) an ability of the court to order joint custody in the absence of an agreement between the parents.

On the other end of the spectrum, the "negatives" of our statutes were identified as the following: 1) no statutory preference for, or presumption of, shared physical custody, 2) no express provision for shared parenting during temporary orders, 3) no requirement that courts must consider "friendly parent" factors when awarding custody, and 4) no express provision providing that an award of joint legal custody entails an equal or nearly equal award of joint physical custody.

It remains to be seen whether more states will be willing to address their custody laws in the coming years ...

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about divorce and/or have questions concerning fathers' rights.

Source: National Parents Organization, "State-by-state analysis highlights parental inequality across the nation," Nov. 13, 2014

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