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Media depictions of noncustodial parents give rise to myths

When media outlets in Kentucky and around the country cover stories about noncustodial parents, they usually involve men who have failed to pay court-ordered child support or fathers who have turned their backs on their children to pursue careers or other goals. While it is true that most noncustodial parents are men, just about all of the other stereotypes about them are based more on myth than on fact.

The most common myth about noncustodial parents is that they are deadbeat dads. The vast majority of fathers who are required to pay child support do so willingly and conscientiously. Noncustodial dads who make sacrifices and do without to ensure that their children are provided for are far more common than deadbeat fathers who refuse to pay child support even though they can afford to, but stories about commitment and responsibility are not usually considered newsworthy by the media.

Another popular media myth about noncustodial parents is that they are uninterested in their children and uninvolved in their lives. Noncustodial parents are becoming increasingly rare as family law judges tend to award joint custody because of the beneficial effects these arrangements have on children. When sole custody is awarded, it is often because one of the parents involved has decided to step back for the good of his or her children. Parents often make this difficult decision because or demanding work schedules, but they generally relish the time they do have with their children.

Addressing child custody and visitation early in divorce negotiations is a way to lay a foundation of cooperation that could be useful when more delicate matters are addressed. When divorcing parents are unable to see eye to eye on these issues, experienced family law attorneys may fear that a long and bitter legal battle is unavoidable. In these situations, attorneys may seek to avoid court proceedings by suggesting alternative approaches like collaborative divorce or mediation.

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