Thoughts on Custody & Parenting Time

Divorce is a complicated series of events that can take days, months, or even years to bring to fruition and progress beyond.  For couples who have children, questions of what the marital breakdown will look like are coupled with discussions around how to share the children between two households. Many times, parents are confronted with making thoughtful and logical decisions about the custody, parenting time, and the well-being of their children in the midst of coping with personal feelings of uncertainty, pain, and loss.

While the trend is changing, mothers still obtain primary custody more than ¾ of the time.  This statistic begs the question, why aren’t fathers awarded more parenting time? There is no single answer to this question. Of course, custody should be limited or removed completely if the parent’s actions compromise the emotional and/or physical safety of the child.  With that said, research reveals a number of other factors that appear to effect child custody negotiations.

Since many couples make potentially lasting custody arrangements before they enter a courtroom, I encourage couples to think about some of the factors that can influence custody arrangements.

Consider the following…………

  1. Custody decisions tend to be congruent with gender roles of the time.  You can see this by looking at how custody has changed over time.  Under Roman law, children belonged to men and were therefore left in the custody of men.  During the Industrial Revolution, men were required to enter the workforce.  Women assumed primary care giving roles and usually received custody after a separation.  The Women’s movement initiated a shift to more gender equality and policies were introduced in the 1970’s in an effort to reduce gender based custody decisions. Today, dual income families are the norm, men have become more involved in parenting, and dissolving couples are increasingly open to joint custody.
  2. Custody decisions are also influenced by the parents’ perceptions of what they think the judge is likely to award. Sometimes, fathers believe that the judge will give the mother primary custody and do not ask for more parenting time.
  3. Public policies also influence custody decisions.  The Best Interest of the Child standard (BIS), under the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, has been the standard in the United States since the 1970’s. Ideally, BIS hopes to move away from gender based decisions about custody to more egalitarian and flexible decisions that facilitate the well-being of the child. Realistically, lack of specific guidelines allows judges to make individual assessments and potentially biased decisions about custody.  Joint or Shared Custody is growing in the United States.  Instead of focusing primarily on providing stability for the child, joint custody focuses on assigning mutual parenting responsibility and building parent-child relationships.  Depending on the study, recent research findings report that between70% and 90% of young adults favor the idea of joint custody.

Custody arrangements are one of the most important decisions a divorcing couple has to make. Sometimes, the parents desire to provide stability for the child prevents them from considering all of their options. Take the necessary time and get the professional help you need to make this decision. Remember, most often children want both parents to be engaged in their life.  Adult children from divorce report wishing they had more time with their father while they were growing up.  As difficult as it can be, parents have to consider what is in the best interest of the child. is dedicated to making the world a better place, one family at a time.

We have a strong commitment to excellence in technology and an even stronger commitment to our families. We have experienced first-hand the pain of being separated from loved ones, from divorce, business travel and from parents or grandparents in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world.

Shelly D. Mahon, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Human Development and Family Studies. Ms Mahon is a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Email:

© 2009/2010 Shelly D. Mahon

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Author: Shelly D Mahon

I have been working with families and teens for almost 20 years, and teaching in a university setting since the year 2000. My commitment is that parents have the support and resources they need to take care of themselves and foster the growth and development of their children. ABOUT ME I have a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) and over 20 years of experience working with youth and families. No matter what your family structure, I am committed to helping you make your family work. I can guid you in effectively managing divorce, strengthening parent-child relationships, embracing the teenage years, reducing risks and increasing resiliency in your families. If fostering the growth and development of your children is important to you, I am committed to working with you. APART, NOT BROKEN: LEARN, CONNECT, & CREATE! Apart, Not Broken is for divorced or separated parents who want to: Move past fear, pain, & guilt Create the life they want with their child Manage their relationship with their ex Contribute to others Be the creator of their future The program gives you a place to: Learn: Hear others real experiences and insights. Receive information and recommendations that can make a measurable difference in adjusting and parenting after separation or divorce. Connect: Join an online community. Learn to use creative strategies to connect with your child and manage your relationship with their ex-partner. Create: Feel powerful in your ability to be the parent YOU want to be. Create the relationship YOU want with their child by building on existing strengths, starting new traditions, and creating lasting memories. This program has: – Videos reflecting real life experiences; – Online tools for sharing photos, comparing calendars, communicating, and more; – Current & concise information about divorce & parenting after divorce; – Engaging activities to enjoy with their child; & – Additional resources to build their own parenting toolbox. Happy Parenting, Shelly I took my first Human Development and Family Studies course as an undergraduate at 18 years old. This was the beginning of a lifetime love and commitment to this field. I have another online program Parenting Through Middle School. I am the mother of two teens myself. This has been an interesting journey and quite the adventure. Over the years, I have learned that parenting takes a lot of energy, but it is well worth the effort. To me, parenting brings to life an ever-changing spectrum of human emotion. It is filled with moments of love, excitement, anticipation, expectations, fears, hopes, and dreams. It has made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time! Just when I think I have everything figured out, my children change. In these moments I realize that I too must change. As they grow, I find myself looking for the balance between teaching them my values, beliefs, and interests and helping them discover and develop into their own unique individual characters. I love to exercise, eat well, sing and play my piano. My favorite sports are running, mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, snowboarding, yoga, Pilates, and most recently, road biking. Happy Parenting! Shelly

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