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Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. Blog

Friday, May 18, 2018

Should Pennsylvania Adopt a Free Range Parenting Law?

Many people considering getting divorced in Pennsylvania have minor children. In that case, the parties need to agree on issues that include child support and child custody. If they can't come to an agreement, those terms of the divorce will be decided by a judge.

In making his or her decision, the judge will consider many factors in determining what child custody arrangement would be in the best interest of the children. Generally, unless there is a particularly strong reason to the contrary, it's in the best interest of the children when both parents are involved in their children's post-divorce life.

Child custody has two prongs: (1) physical custody, which is where the child physically resides; and (2) legal custody which is the parent’s right to make important decisions on behalf of the child including those involving their education, religion, medical treatments, and activities.

For the past 40 years, since the first famous NYC child abduction case hit milk cartons nationwide, parents have been particularly overprotective in micro-managing of their children--never letting them out of their sight when in public places or leaving them home alone. Formerly acceptable practices like walking to school or parks and bike riding in the neighborhood alone gave way to arranged play dates and indoor activities in families all across the country. Parents would often be reported to child protective services if officers caught young children lacking in adult supervision, especially in public.

Recently, there has been a shift starting across the country towards a more relaxed style of parenting known as “free-range” parenting. In fact, a new law that favors free-range parenting has been enacted in Utah and is gaining attention in many other states. Free-range parenting encourages giving children the freedom to do the above-mentioned, previously-taboo activities alone.

Supporters believe it leads to more self-reliant and independent children while critics worry about the exposure to serious dangers like cars and child abductors. The Utah law applies to “well-cared-for” children only and did not specify a specific age at which kids could be let out alone, allowing parents and authorities to decide the appropriateness of the situation on a case-by-case basis.

It would not be surprising to see an uptick in the instances of divorced parents challenging custody arrangements or even parental rights based on different parenting styles in states where free-range parenting laws are enacted.

If you have any questions regarding getting divorced, child custody, or any other family law matter, the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. can help you. Contact us today to arrange a consultation.


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