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Joint child custody helps dads stay involved

It is important to be an active and involved parent, especially when going through a divorce. Your continued presence is in your child's best interests. However, as a father, you are probably worried about how involved you will actually be. People generally assume that mothers always have primary custody, leaving fathers with a few weekends a month. The rise in joint child custody can dispel that misconception.

It is true that Kentucky family law courts used to prioritize mothers over fathers. Historically, women really were more likely to secure sole custody of their children. Few people understood the meaningful roles dads play in their children's lives.

Child custody is changing

A study from an out-of-state university compared custody agreements from 1980 and 2008. In 1980, courts awarded sole custody to mothers in 80% of cases. Sole custody was awarded to mothers only 42% of the time in 2008. Over that same period of time, joint custody -- parents having equal parenting time -- went from 5% to 27%. Unequal shared parenting -- parents sharing parenting duties but parenting time is not equal -- also increased.

There are a lot of reasons for these changes in custody trends. Several decades ago, more and more mothers were going to work, and fathers took on more child-rearing responsibilities. Societal attitudes toward divorce were also changing, and women were the ones filing for around 66% of all divorces. Fathers who did not want to divorce often became a smaller part of their children's lives even when they wanted to be as involved as possible. Although change was slow, today's child custody agreements reflect how dads have been feeling for decades.

Parents do not always go to court

If your only exposure to divorce is through TV shows and movies, then you might not fully grasp how the process works. Parents in Kentucky are battling it out in court over child custody much less frequently. Instead, divorcing parents are taking advantage of something called mediation. You can use mediation to negotiate a custody agreement with your ex, and a neutral third-party will help guide. Many parents also choose to have their attorneys accompany them during this process.

This gives you greater control over the final agreement, including both physical and legal custody. Physical custody addresses the schedule for where and when your child will sleep at night. Legal custody deals with slightly more complex matters, like how to make decisions about things like religion, education and even health care.

You know your child better than anyone

It is not easy to go from seeing your child every day to living apart from them at least some of the time. This does not mean that your relationship with your child is at risk. You can take a number of steps -- including advocating for joint custody -- to stay actively involved in his or her life.

Unfortunately, there are still many people who think mothers should be in charge of raising children. This can make it hard to secure a joint child custody agreement that is truly in your child's best interests. Do not let these individuals lock you out of your child's life. An experienced family law attorney can help assert your rights in all matters of divorce, particularly when it comes to child custody.

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