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A Word from Scott Shaw: What gave her the right?

In the mid-1990’s when I began as a child custody attorney, and built up expertise, I wrote of a moment that I summarized as “who gave her the right?”

What I meant by this is that mothers assumed they were entitled to child custody, they acted as if they were entitled to child custody, fathers allowed mothers to act in this manner, and a child’s life was impacted by these actions, without a single piece of evidence being presented to the court.  The case that struck me the most was one of my first victories in a child custody case.  In that case, the mother simply took off with the child, moved 50 miles away, and told the father he could see his infant son on every other weekend. The father retained me, and in the end, the mother became the weekend parent and the father, to this day, has primary physical custody.  

As time has gone on there have been many studies examining whether children do better with one primary parent and the other parent seeing the child overnight only three, four or five days per month.  That is the usual standard parenting plan, with standard visitation. This plan is one that mothers took for granted, while fathers had to fight in a court of law to gain greater access to care for their children.

The initial scientific studies – whether accurate or not – offered the conclusion that babies and children were better off in the sole custody of the mother, and barely saw their father.  This became gospel in the courts and was so when I started fighting for child custody.  However, out of 60 studies that have been done since then, most done with larger study numbers, done with adjusting for income, conflict between parents, educational levels, domestic violence and such, not a single study found that children in the sole legal custody of one parent fared better than children in a joint physical custody arrangement.  In fact, just the opposite was reported. The overwhelming clinical evidence of peer-reviewed studies has found that children in joint physical custody arrangements (meaning at least 35% time with the non-custodial parent up to 50/50 custody arrangements) do better, and sometimes far better than children in sole physical custody arrangements.

So why is it still so difficult for dads to get joint physical custody of children in Georgia?  Why do they have to fight so hard in the State of Georgia to prevail in a custody case seeking joint physical custody?  The answer is rule-of-thumb heuristic thinking from historical studies that were flawed but became conventional knowledge.  

If the father wants to win joint physical custody, in a court system that is biased to give mother sole physical custody, the answer is to address the science directly, and bring in an expert who can correct the record.  To be sure, there are exceptions (minor exceptions mostly) that may change the outcome, even with the science on joint physical custody being properly put into legal context, but outside of these mostly minor exceptions, the science supports that children (even babies and infants) – do better in a joint physical custody circumstance than by giving one parent sole physical custody.

Family law is all we do at Shaw Law Firm, including fighting for parents who want to be in their children’s lives, and creating persuasive cases (supported by the science) as to why joint physical custody arrangements are almost always superior than giving one parent sole physical custody and marginalizing the other parent.

Give us a call, and we will be happy to discuss joint physical custody with you, as well as any other family law, child custody, legitimation and paternity, and divorce issue.