The Swizz Federal Council proposed a law that would force family courts to provide divorcing parents with joint custody, only awarding primary custody to a single parent if a joint arrangement would endanger the child in question by exposing him or her to violence, sickness or absence of inexperienced parenting.

Courts in Virginia and many other states do not have a legal preference for awarding custody to either mothers or fathers, but have no legal requirement to award joint legal custody in most cases. If a law such as that proposed in Switzerland were adopted in Virginia, courts would be obligated to award joint custody unless major concerns prevented it.

Before the proposed Swizz measure becomes enacted as law, the nation's parliament will need to approve the suggestion. However, experts say it is unlikely that the law will face opposition come voting time.

The Federal Council explained that under the child custody law, divorced parents would be forced to consult each other when making decisions regarding their children's welfare. However, the parent with whom a child lives will still be allowed to make important daily decisions, such as those regarding the child's clothing, diet and pastimes, without the approval of the other parent. Additionally, if one parent moves out of the country, he or she must have the other parent's approval to maintain joint custody. If parents cannot come to an agreement on any child-rearing decision, a judge or the Swiss child protection service will rule on the matter.

In addition to compulsory joint custody, the new law would also compel courts to split child support more evenly between fathers and mothers, even in cases where couples are unmarried when they parent a child. Under current law, non-married cannot expect child support from the fathers of their children.

Laws related to divorce and child custody are constantly being revamped and updated in order to keep up with current trends and family issues. Each state imposes their own set of laws that affect the divorce process differently for every couple. Currently, there is a trend toward joint legal custody.

Source: Geneva Lunch, "Joint custody of children likely to become Swiss law," Ellen Wallace, Nov. 17, 2011