In many states across the nation, judges take into consideration a child's best interests when making custody determinations. What this means can differ from state to state though. Here in Maryland, judges take into consideration a myriad of things such as existing custody agreements, the fitness of each parent, the age of the child, and whether one parent takes care of the child more than the other, just to name a few.
Though most people would agree that it's important to keep in mind a child's best interests when making custody arrangements, some argue this standard of law gives judges too much discretion when making determinations. Across the nation, and perhaps even here in Maryland, this can lead to seemingly unfair custody arrangements that tend to ignore a father's rights. Furthermore, this standard of law does not take into consideration mounting research that suggests "children living in joint-physical custody arrangements exhibited fewer psychosomatic issues than those living with just one parent."
But on top of all of that, some point out that the "best interest of the child" doesn't always mean shared parenting, which can be incredibly frustrating to the non-custodial parent. It's because of this that individuals and organizations are asking lawmakers to consider the wording of custody laws and make changes that would limited a judge's discretion, thereby bolstering parental rights.
According to a recent Boston Globe article, the movement toward child custody law reform is growing across the nation. Right now, approximately 20 states are considering legislation that focuses on shared custody arrangements. The hope is that by focusing on equal shared custody, judges can finally do what they have been trying to do all this time: what's in a child's best interests.