Ten-year-old Ava and ten-year-old Suzie live a few miles apart. Both their sets of parents are unfortunately divorcing. Ava will likely have difficulties but adjust pretty well while staying connected to her mom and dad. Suzie, however, will probably watch her parents fight terribly as they spend more on legal bills than necessary. Eventually, one of Suzie’s parents, most likely her dad, will basically be removed from her life.
What will cause the huge difference in the girls’ lives?
Each girl loves both her parents –and all the parents are good caregivers. The difference is caused, believe it or not, by the few miles between them. Ava lives in Kentucky where divorcing children get to see both parents equally. Suzie lives in Ohio where the law forces parents to fight tooth and nail to “win” custody of her if they are to continue in their full parenting role.
Kentucky’s law for divorcing families has a presumption that both parents have equal decision making (“joint custody”) and parenting time. This arrangement is true shared parenting. Decades of scientific research show this is usually the best arrangement for children in separating families. Kentucky’s law excludes parents who are likely to abuse or neglect a child, of course. But for the vast majority of families, both parents — and even more importantly, the children – can be assured of a full continuing parent/child relationship.
However, Ohio’s law is based on choosing a primary custodian. In other words, one of Suzie’s parents stays a real parent. The other one is pushed to the edges of her life and only gets to see her during “visitation.” Suzie wants to stay close to both of her quality parents but the state of Ohio makes this difficult unless the parents both agree to it from the outset. Ohio then tells the parents to put on their boxing gloves and fight with everything they have. It’s no wonder so many good people go through tough divorces.