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Technology may be a sword, shield or useful tool in child custody

Throughout history, technology has been used for good and ill. Jet engines whisk people to far off destinations in hours, but they can also carry warheads. Medical advances have saved countless lives, but have also led to the proliferation of devastating biological weapons. Recently, a new child custody study has found that smartphones and other technological advances can also be a major source of good or ill for Atlanta couples that share custody of their kids.

According to the study, which interviewed about 50 divorced parents, communications technology was used very differently depending on the level of friendliness between a child's separated parents. Cooperative co-parents used texts, e-mails and online calendars to communicate and keep each other up-to-date on their children's schedule.

In contrast, more hostile couples turned those same tools into a sword or a shield. Some used communications technology to control their former partners' access to the couple's children while other partners used it to avoid confrontation.

All couples, friendly or not, shared some consistencies in how they used communications technology. For example, nearly all divorced couples used tools like e-mail to create clear records of key decisions as well as a way to maintain household boundaries.

These issues demonstrate the importance of child custody decisions following a divorce. In Georgia and most other states, child custody comes in two main forms: joint legal and sole legal custody. Legal custody defines the extent to which a parent has the legal right to make important decisions in a child's life such as regarding their education, health and welfare. It is in the making of these decisions that communications technology can be especially useful, especially if parents are unable to talk face-to-face.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Tech can help or seriously damage co-parenting after divorce," Aisha Sultan, Aug. 31, 2012

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