By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
Family law is moving in the direction of collaboration and shared parenting, even if the reform is not as rapid as many scorned divorced dads would like.
This is a glacial but positive movement in the courtroom, and many states have shared parenting legislation, or similar fathers’ rights bills, in the works.
Below is an update on the status of shared parenting reforms in several states.
In April 2012, Arizona moved another step closer to shared parenting by passing SB 1127 which will give children greater levels of shared parenting and a fuller relationship with both parents.
In this bill, the terms "custody" and "visitation" were removed and replaced with "legal decision making" and "parenting."
Also, parents who make false accusations in the context of custody cases are not acting in the child’s best interest, and the proposed law requires the court to sanction parents for this type of misconduct.
In cases where parents do not jointly agree on a plan, the court is now instructed to implement a parenting plan that gives both parents joint decision making responsibility and maximizes the child’s time with both parents.
While this legislation moves in the right direction, it also states specifically that joint legal decision-making does not mean equal time-sharing.
As with any new legislation, there will be modifications to the bill going forward, but it sends a positive signal to the courts that the legislature wants kids to be more fully engaged with both parents.
Concerned parties in Illinois worked for two years to pass a bill (SB 3823) that gives parents the same types of recourse for denied access to their children as those parents who failed to pay child support.
Children need to see both parents, and this bill gives parents who are denied a relationship with their children the right to petition the court to take such actions as suspending drivers’ licenses, ordering probation, assessing fines and incarcerating parents who interfere with child access.
This bill was passed into law on Aug. 22, 2012.
The Children’s Equal and Shared Parenting Act, or House File 322, would require a presumption for shared parenting of children where each parent would be presumptively awarded at least 45.1 percent of parenting time.
It also provided that the presumption might be overridden if the court found the arrangement was not in the best interests of the child. The only exceptions would be in cases of domestic abuse or if one parent was causing substantial harm to the child.
This bill was scaled back some when it went to the senate in May 2012, but it still did allow for more shared parenting time than its predecessor. Now instead of 25 percent parenting time, the minimum has been raised to 35 percent of the time.
This translates to a child spending 5 of every 14 days with the noncustodial parent, instead of only 2 days that was previously the law.
If this increase doesn’t seem like much, consider this: With the new 35 percent time increase for noncustodial parents, a child will spend roughly 10 days a month, rather than the 4 days he was allowed before.
This increase gives a child and his noncustodial parent roughly one-third of the time together. It applies to both divorced parents and unmarried parents and is a definite step in the right direction.
As of September 2012, the Indiana Shared Parenting Initiative is building support with the goal of presenting a proposed shared parenting bill to the Indiana State Legislature in the near future.
Indiana is one of many states that are at the grass roots level of carving out new legislation for presumptive shared parenting.
As more and more states continue to pass better shared-parent and joint-parent legislation, society's views will follow suit.
Cordell & Cordell:Family Law Attorneys For Men
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.