While a bill aimed at making joint physical custody more common in divorced families failed in Florida, shared custody is a growing trend throughout the country, and some states have passed bills that make it the default in divorce cases. Although for decades the approach has been for one parent to have primary custody so that the child has stability, psychologists now believe that barring issues like mental illness or abuse, a child benefits from time with both parents.
According to a study in 2007, children who spent at least 35 percent of their time with each parent were healthier than children who lived with one parent. Another issue is that the parent who does not have custody is seen as more of a fun relative than a parent.
Despite psychologists' conclusions, joint custody is still not common. Of fathers who do not live with their children, fewer than one-quarter see them more often than weekly. Some courts tend to side with the mother while in other cases, fathers prefer to have less responsibility. Parents must also be able to communicate well in order to share custody, and this can be a barrier.
In some cases, a father may feel that he is at a disadvantage in fighting for custody rights This can be even more complicated if the parents were never married or if there is a question of paternity. A father who is in such a situation might want to discuss how he can best pursue a custody claim with an attorney. For example, if the father only has visitation, he might take steps to demonstrate his involvement in the child's life such as going to sporting events or rehearsals the child is involved in.