Two States Score Shared Parenting Victories

Over the last two years, there has been much written about the push throughout the country to revise child custody statutes so that shared parenting is the presumption rather than the exception.

In February, an article was published detailing how the shared parenting movement was continuing to gain traction across the U.S. The article detailed how, despite pushback from critics not based on facts, more bills were being proposed in states that would grant both parents more access to their children in the event of divorce or separation.

Unfortunately, a Florida bill that would have modernized both the child custody and alimony laws in the state died when it was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. Nonetheless, bills in both Missouri and Massachusetts made their way through each state’s legislatures.

The slow, but steady, progress of those bills along with the failure in Florida is illustrative of why it is so difficult to pass shared parenting legislation. Moreover, these are prime examples of the painstaking process fathers are experiencing as they fight to gain rights in the family court system.

Now, finally, there are a couple successes to report on.

First, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon recently signed into law HB 1550 after easily passing through the House and receiving substantial support in newspaper editorial pages across the state.

The passage of this bill is a huge victory for Missouri dads and families as it helps standardize the custody procedures for courts across the state, holds courts more accountable for their decisions regarding child custody, and establishes the presumption that equal access to each parent is in the best interest of children.

Then Massachusetts took a major step towards establishing a new shared parenting law by passing a bill through the Massachusetts House of Representatives known as An Act Relative to Child-Centered Family Law.

This is the first time a shared parenting bill in the state has made it out of its assigned Committee.

Similar to the bill in Missouri, H.4544 received overwhelming support in Massachusetts, including an endorsement from The Boston Globe.

This legislation would encourage judges to grant shared custody, with a child spending at least one-third of their time with each parent.

Unfortunately, the Senate failed to pass the bill before the end of the 2015-16 legislative session. However, because of the progress the bill made in passing the House, along with the momentum it gained thanks to massive support from groups like the National Parents Association, the bill will enter with a full head of steam when it is re-submitted into the legislature in January 2017.

Moreover, the process of slowly but surely nudging the bills in each state into law should give other states and parents’ rights groups a template to follow in other states as they continue to advance the shared parenting movement.

 

-Shawn Garrison

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