Media portrayals of noncustodial parents are often unfair

When media outlets in California and around the country run stories dealing with noncustodial parents, they are usually about deadbeat dads or fathers who turned their backs on their children in order to pursue career goals. While it may be true that most noncustodial parents are men, the portrayal of them as selfish, uninvolved, uncaring and cheap is largely based on myth.

Noncustodial parents are also becoming rarer as the courts embrace joint custody arrangements. Single custody has traditionally been awarded to mothers in divorce cases, but family law judges have been swayed in recent years by research revealing how beneficial it can be for children when they spend quality time with both their mothers and their fathers. When sole custody is awarded, noncustodial parents usually relish the time they spend with their children and are diligent about paying child support.

The depiction of noncustodial parents as career driven and uninvolved is also misleading. These parents often forgo joint custody arrangements because they feel that their children would be happier living in a single home instead of shuttling back and forth between two. Parents often find themselves filling a noncustodial role after facing the heartbreaking choice of spending more time with their children or maintaining a grueling work schedule to pay for their upkeep.

Experienced family law attorneys may address child custody and visitation early on in divorce proceedings because even parents who have grown to dislike one another intensely are usually able to put their feelings aside for the wellbeing of their children. This can lay a foundation of cooperation and trust that could make discussing thornier issues like property division or alimony less contentious. Attorneys may also petition the court to have sole custody arrangements modified when situations change in ways that allow noncustodial parents to spend more time with their children.

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