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Helton Law Firm, PLLC

Child custody, visitation and the push for reform

When Tennessee couples who have children decide to divorce, they may believe that the mothers are likely to be given primary physical custody with the fathers having some form of visitation rights. Nationally, there has been a push to reform child custody laws in order to make custody and visitation decisions more equitable.

Several states have passed child custody reform laws. In Missouri, judges are now prohibited from making custody decisions based on the gender of the parent or the age of the child. Traditionally, courts have approached custody matters with the idea that the children should stay with the mothers, especially when they are young.

Besides Missouri, other states that have passed child custody reform laws include Utah, Minnesota and South Dakota. Arizona issued a proposal in 2010 that also concerned child custody reform, and it has been very successful. Twenty more states have child custody reform bills pending before their respective state legislatures. States are becoming more aware of the importance for children to be able to have liberal contact with both parents, as well as for both to be equally involved in the responsibilities and decisions of parenting.

The push for child custody reform comes in recognition that the best interests of the child are not always served by giving women primary physical custody simply based on the fact that they are mothers. Instead, children may do best when they have substantial access to both parents and when both parents are very involved in their lives. Fathers who are facing this type of an issue during divorce proceedings may want to have the assistance of an attorney in asserting their parental rights.

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