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Does helicopter parenting help in a custody case?

Utah recently passed a "free-range parenting" law that would eliminate penalties for parents who let kids act independently, provided the child is mature enough to engage in the activity and does not face unreasonable risk.

Examples include letting a child walk to school alone, go to the playground alone, or stay home without adult supervision for a short time. Specifically, the law amends the state's definition of child neglect to exempt these situations. Children cannot be removed from their parents for these activities, provided the children are otherwise cared for.

It is a reaction to the perceived notion that parents are over-parenting children. Across the country, parents have faced serious charges for doing things like going into a store while their children remain in the car for a few minutes.

This is not a parenting blog, and we are not giving you advice on how to raise your children. You know your children best. It can be hard to know when you are being too protective of your children and when you need to step in for their own safety.

But it does raise a question: in a custody case, do courts prefer "helicopter" parents?

Shared parental responsibility is preferred

Colorado courts no longer use the term "custody." Instead, they refer to "parenting responsibilities."

Despite common beliefs, courts do not prefer to grant primary parental responsibility to the mother. Instead, courts decide parental responsibility based on the best interests of the child. Colorado assumes that it is in the best interests of a child to have both parents involved in raising the child.

However, evidence of neglect would certainly be a consideration for the courts. In Colorado, which has no similar law to Utah's, a parent may very well have the decision to let young children walk to school on their own be a consideration when making a custody decision.

Every custody case is unique

No two custody cases are alike. Parents who are able to work together can agree on a shared parental responsibility plan through mediation or arbitration, and work out issues about supervision between themselves. In contested cases, the court will use a variety of evidence in making a decision, which could include each parent's relationship with their child, any potential dangerous situation the child could be in, and any other relevant factor.

It is not clear that "helicopter" parenting is helpful in deciding a custody case. However, the court will certainly factor in the safety of the child when making custody decisions.

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