More and more states and more and more courts are deciding child custody cases with an assumption that the parents should have joint legal custody. This means that both parents have decision-making power in questions of education, health, religion and other matters. Despite this trend, some courts still favor awarding primary physical custody to one parent, with the other parent having visitation rights.
Many people feel that in addition to a “best interests of the child” standard, there should be a presumption that both parents will share physical custody. That is the idea behind recent proposed legislation in South Dakota that would make a joint physical custody presumption the law in that state.
Judges would still be able to decide child custody cases in a way other than with joint physical custody, but they would have to give a written explanation for their deviation from the presumed joint custody arrangement.
A child custody lawyer in Riverside, CA noted that people in favor of the new South Dakota law say that children of parents who share physical custody do better in school and have fewer emotional or legal problems than children who have one parent with primary physical custody.
Opponents of the legislation say that children with parents living in different towns would have increased difficulties. But backers of the new law say that having active involvement from both parents outweighs the inconvenience of dual households.