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Courts shifting more toward joint custody

The landscape for parents in Kentucky who get a divorce has changed significantly over the past several decades. While many divorced fathers in the past may have rarely seen their children afterwards, courts today are open to the possibility of joint physical custody. Legal custody, which is usually shared, refers to which parent has the right to make decisions about a child's education, medical care, religion and other major issues while physical custody refers to with whom the child lives.

According to one family law professor, the soaring divorce rate of the baby boomers reflected a surge in couples marrying younger in the 1950s and 1960s, often when the mother was pregnant. Within the legal system, there was also a realization that restrictive divorce laws were not practical. In 1980, the sole physical custody rate for single mothers was 80 percent. As women began to enter the workforce in larger numbers and fathers took a larger role in the lives of their children, this number dropped, and by 2008, it was 42 percent. Equal physical custody rose to 27 percent from 5 percent.

There have been a number of other changes in divorces over the decades. Another major one is in the number of couples who opt for mediation instead of going into litigation.

Negotiation or mediation can be less costly and less emotionally upsetting, but even if parents must go to court, they can still have a healthy co-parenting relationship afterward. Parents who are considering a divorce and who are concerned about custody may want to discuss the situation with an attorney.

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