Changes to state custody laws may help create stronger bonds
A new law that takes effect in Arizona today will hopefully have a meaningful impact on children when their parents divorce.
Judges in divorce cases will now issue rulings on “parenting time” for each parent.
The goal, according to William Fabricius, the expert who helped craft the changes, is to help fathers establish and maintain relationships with their children.
Divorce can have a major impact on a child. According to one study, within two to three years of a divorce, almost 20 percent of children have limited or no contact with their fathers.
And, children with stress in their relationships with their parents have more health issues later in life.
Fabricius noted that a better relationship between the child and father doesn't detract from the mother-child relationship.
And, a nationwide study noted that children who have significant time and relationships with their fathers after divorce are significantly better adjusted and successful than their peers with distant fathers.
The new legislation in Arizona reinforces the idea that time should be divided in a fashion that's in the best interest of the child, which also means that if there is a situation that would be unsafe or unhealthy for the child, the judge can limit the amount of time the child has with the parent in question.
This is an approach that makes sense. Regardless of the circumstances between the two parents, in most cases, as long as each parent can provide a loving, safe environment for their child, the child should in turn spend time with each parent.
What the legislation doesn't address — and really, can't — is the quality of time that the parent spends with the child. Building a significant relationship between a parent and child doesn't happen at the court level alone — the parent also must take the initiative in building a healthy relationship with the child.
Hopefully though, this legislation helps parents to move in the right direction.