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Effects of 1997 child custody law still felt today

The general prevailing perception of how parenting after divorce should look has not changed much over the years. Many people still fully expect mothers to be awarded primary custody while fathers are relegated to weekends and summer visits. However, as families evolved over the years, Oregon family law regarding child custody also began to change.

Households headed by single fathers only accounted for 14 percent of all single-parent households about 50 years ago, while today they make up nearly a quarter. That's approximately 2 million fathers providing primary care for their children, a drastic shift in an otherwise relatively short period of time. Oregon was one of the first states to understand the need for family law reform in order to reflect this new normal.

In 1997, Oregon lawmakers passed legislation that greatly favored joint custody. This type of custody arrangement usually has parents share both physical and legal custody, an arrangement that many people perceive to be especially beneficial to children. When joint custody is in place, children typically have a better chance of maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents.

Admittedly, joint custody is not necessarily appropriate as a blanket answer to all child custody issues. Extenuating circumstances in which domestic violence or addiction is an issue often excludes joint custody altogether. In otherwise normal situations, joint custody can be a potential answer for parents who are wondering what is truly in the best interests of their children. Whether an agreeable arrangement is reached through mutual negotiations or is ordered by a judge, the end goal of any agreement should always focus around the child and his or her best interests.

Source: newsherald.com, "Single fathers reflect on joys, challenges of parenthood", Katie Landeck, June 19, 2016

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