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Joint Custody Pioneer Dies in California

Clarkston Legal March 20, 2009

James Cook of California, hailed by many divorce professionals as the pioneer of modern “joint custody” arrangements, died of natural causes at his home in California.

Following his bitter divorce, Cook lobbied the legislature in Sacramento in the late 1970s to pass a then-novel law that provided wide discretion to family court judges in California to fashion a parenting plan that included both parents. Once the law passed, Cook did not stop lobbying; he traveled the country for decades preaching the value of joint custody.

Prior to the joint custody law, fathers across the nation were routinely excluded from meaningful parenting. Following passage of the joint custody statute in California, many states followed suit with similar laws of their own.

Cook is eulogized by some in the family law field as a champion of civil rights. There is no doubt that his sustained effort has had a positive effect on custody jurisprudence.