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Equal parenting time may be coming

Under Pennsylvania law, there is a presumption that custody should not be awarded to one of the parents. But, a recently introduced bill could dramatically change child custody by creating a presumption that equal parenting time is in the best interests of the child.

If adopted, the new bill would eliminate the use of primary and partial physical custody in favor of the presumption for shared physical and legal custody and equal parenting time. Equal parenting time would be defined as close as 50 percent of time that a child spends with each parent. But, the child would not be able to send more than 60 percent of their time with either parent.

Where less than equal parenting time is appropriate, the court would have to order a schedule that maximizes the amount of time that a parent shares with their child. This would, as much as possible, must be in the child's best interest. Clear and convincing evidence would have to be submitted that equal custody should not be awarded.

The bill's sponsor claims that enacting the bill would provide for gender equality in custody cases, promote the rights of children to have both parents involved in their lives and help children by having both parents involved in the daily responsibilities for them. It is also anticipated that requiring more equal custody will bring down custody litigation.

However, equal custody may not be the best situation for all families because each of them has different circumstances. It may not be in the best interests of all children who may have to continually move between their parents' homes.

Equal custody may not eliminate parental alienation. These accusations usually exist in high conflict custody litigation. For its success, equal custody requires must cooperate more after they separate than before. Currently, equal custody is becoming more common as parents spend more time with their children.

The requirement would also change the concept of relocation. A parent who is offered employment in another county or state, for example, would have to choose the job or custody. This could impede the child and parent's finances at least until the child reaches 18.

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