Washington State chapter
National Organization for Women
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Washington State NOW opposes mandatory joint custody and any other efforts to weaken our state's child support collection system.
The idea of presumptive joint custody was developed in the 1970'ís and 1980í's.
At that time it was believed that joint custody was generally in the child'ís best interest and that it would reduce a chil'dís trauma over the divorce by requiring predictable and balanced contact by both parents with the child.
In actual practice, however, presumptive joint custody has fallen far short of its idealized goal.
Instead, it causes numerous problems:
- Unless parents live near each other and are able to cooperate and communicate well with each other, joint custody increases children'ís psychological and emotional problems.
Given that most divorces occur because the parents cannot get along, it makes little sense to impose as the normal custody arrangement that harms the children.
- Even if divorced parents remain on good terms with each other, alternating between homes, which joint physical custody usually entails, is difficult and disorienting for children.
Often it serves the parentsí needs rather than those of the children.
- Joint custody increases conflict and hostility between divorced parents because of the frequent contact it requires.
This is especially true where joint custody is ordered over parental objection.
Parental conflict and hostility are very harmful to children.
- Court-ordered joint custody enables abusive or violent spouses to maintain control over their victims.
Many will seek such custody solely to maintain their controlling relationship.
In addition, the abuse and violence often increase after the divorce because the abuser has lost previously held control over the victim.
- Presumptive joint custody increases litigation because one parent need only demand joint custody and the other would be required to prove to the court that joint custody would be harmful to their children.
- Presumptive joint custody invites one parent to trade time for money, i.e., to offer to give up their right to joint custody in exchange for a lower child support obligation or an unfair property settlement.
- Even where presumptive joint custody is ordered, many families resort to an arrangement that is closer to sole custody, usually with the mother.
The result is that the sole custodian and the children receive inadequate child support since the child support order is based on incorrect assumptions regarding sharing of expenses.
Re-litigation of custody and support orders is expensive and time-consuming.
Presumptive joint custody fails to take into consideration the unique circumstances of each family.
Courts under presumptive joint custody have very limited discretion even in circumstances of violence or where the court believes joint custody is not in the best interest of the child.
Under current law regarding parenting plans, judges can award joint custody if deemed appropriate in any specific case.
This legislation presumes that a joint custody is appropriate in all cases and that parents going through a divorce, often a hotly contested one,
can work well together and have frequent contact and communicate and can make mutual decisions concerning their child.
This is often not the case, especially in high conflict cases.
per Washington State NOW Activist - January 1998
Call 360-253-7147 for a contact person in your local community.
Back to the WA NOW Home Page
Joint Custody Position Paper ("pp.joint.custody.html")
Maintained by William Affleck-Asch
Seattle NOW member (who happens to have joint shared custody, but it's not for everyone)
Last updated: March 14, 1998