Re: Divorce: shared custody should be mandatory

From: Stephen D. Williams (
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 19:24:32 PST

Lisa Dusseault wrote:
> Well, I wasn't going to reply since I agreed with you, until I saw:
> > You have a particularly pessimistic view of fathers.
> Wrongo. I know biological fathers make great parents. I *never* used a
> gender-specific example, let alone made gender-specific judgements, except
> in response to one of your examples which used "Mom" and "Dad". Otherwise,
> I stuck to "custodial parent" and "non-custodial" or "absentee" parent.

Good, sorry I drew that conclusion.

> > The right of both parents to participate with the child is directly
> > derived from perceived benefit to the child. It's spelled out in most
> > states laws that way (I bought a copy of VA's when I was divorced). In
> That may be, but I'm questioning whether that perceived benefit is there, in
> the majority of cases. In individual cases, I'm quite happy to believe that
> the very best situation for the child is having shared custody or
> strongly-protected visiting rights of the non-custodial parent. But given
> the fallibilities of human nature, are we sure that these situations are the
> right ones to enforce in all situations?
> > support. The system should be saying: "You are both still responsible
> > for this child.". It's a travesty to shred a father's role and then
> > complain later about their lack of participation or even support. The
> > presumption should be positive, not negative because, like many cases,
> > the presumption is often self-fulfilling.
> Why should the system be telling the parents what's best for the child in
> broad strokes like this? Aren't there situations, including physical and
> verbal abuse of children but extending even into lengthy bickering, where
> making both parents continue responsibility for the child is damaging to the
> child?

Yes, of course, but I want to change the Presumption. They have to
argue that.

> I do think you're confusing what's permitted, with what's required, and
> what's encouraged. The system may force visitation rights to protect the
> rights of a moderately responsible parent to see their child. The system
> may force custody when one parent is clearly less able to care for the child
> than the other. But the system should also permit other arrangements, at
> the choice of the parents.
> If one parent wishes to cede custodial rights, perhaps in a humble admission
> of their own fallibility or the best interests of the child, what business
> does the system have in telling them that's wrong?

The system should allow other arrangements, and I wouldn't be too
adverse to a parent being able to cede custodial rights. The problem
now is that the presumption is that the mother gets custodial rights,
the father gets none, and anything else is considered strange. If both
parents agree, you can have shared/joint custody, however it's typically
weak and if there's any major fight it's likely to be changed to sole
mother custody.

If the father wants joint custody and the mother doesn't, the current
system automatically sides with the mother. That's what is wrong. A
father wants to participate as an equal parent and the system just says:
"Too bad, we know you're going to suck so just pay the money and let the
mother decide everything.".

> The system can tell parents when things are clearly wrong -- abuse, etc.
> But when things aren't clearly wrong -- and an absentee parent isn't
> necessarily clearly wrong -- the system generally can't do as well as the
> parents in figuring out what's best for the child.

In my original description, I mentioned that abandonement would be
grounds for assigning sole custody. Unless it already existed at the
child's level, it shouldn't be presumed or pressured at the time of

> lisa
> Digression. To extend a little further into my reasoning on why forced
> shared custody is seriously difficult, it's because it seems not only are
> the child's loyalties split between their parents, but also the parents'
> loyalties are divided between doing what's best for the child, and scoring
> points off each other. It's no longer a simple case of "we're a family,
> we're all in this together". Instead, if the parents have _any_ conscious
> or unconscious desire to torture the other person, or to "win", or to be
> more loved, then joint custody can be a nightmare for the kid. Rather than
> single-mindedly pursuing what's best for the kid, the parents may be tempted
> to "score one" against the other, or lay blame. Their loyalties are
> divided. On the other hand, if one of the parents chooses voluntarily to
> relinquish the scene, everybody's motivations and loyalties are simplified.

Again, this happens anyway. If the parent is going to desist being a
parent, that's simple in both cases. The problem is when the
non-custodial parent wants to continue and the custodial parent wants to
cause problems. The current system gives the custodial parent almost
complete control to cause that to happen.


Stephen D. Williams         Insta, Inc./Jabber.Com, Inc./CCI
43392 Wayside Cir,Ashburn,VA 20147-4622 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 

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