Shared parenting is a movement that is gaining momentum and spreading across the country. While much of the news is good, there are also many examples highlighting the uphill battle to equality. Below you will find news reports, articles, or stories about custody, parenting, legislative events, and legal proceedings that relate to our interests and objectives. If you have any news or stories that you would like to share, please contact us through facebook or by email at email@example.com.
May 2019 - Arkansas passed HB1802 during their 2019 legislative session, becoming the 41st state to adopt the Income Shares model for child support. Previously, Arkansas had used an embarrassingly outdated model that assumed one parent had sole custody while the other worked. Income Shares accounts for the income of both parents as well as the amount of time spent with each parent. It also brings uniformity to the state since there had been no guidelines for child support in cases of joint custody. The law stipulates the deadline to implement the new model is March 1, 2020. Hopefully this will address one of the many inequities in our child support system and start to focus on the child. You can read the bill here and a law firm announcement here.
February 2019 - Arkansas has recently filed legislation to give unmarried fathers rights and equal treatment under the law. In one of the worst examples of gender discrimination, the law currently gives sole custody to the mother, regardless of the circumstances. It then requires the father to prove a number of things that the mother did not, such as that he is a fit parent. If passed into law, HB1486 would create a pathway for unmarried fathers to be determined the parent upfront, remove the additional requirements for fathers, and apply the current "favored" status for joint custody. You can read the bill here and a news story here.
July 2018 - Kentucky now has the strongest shared custody laws in the country. The law, House Bill 528, was signed by Governor Matt Bevin in April and went into effect July 1, 2018. The overwhelmingly popular bill passed the house by a vote of 81-2 and the senate unanimously. What makes this law special is that it is the first in the nation to create a "legal presumption" for joint custody and equally shared parenting time. In contrast, Arkansas law simply states that joint custody is "favored" and has little legal weight. The Kentucky law goes on to specify that this presumption also applies if a court modifies a custody decree. You can read more about the custody law here and here.
January 2018 - The Washington Post has written an article on the shared parenting sentiment that is sweeping across the nation. They report that over 20 states considered laws in support of shared parenting in 2017. Hopefully 2018 will be the year that laws are "passed" and not only "considered." While the article is generally positive on the subject, we would like to address the arguments used by critics of these bills that were presented. 1) These laws never apply in cases of abuse or neglect and judges always have the final say. 2) Potentially eliminating child support is not a valid argument against shared parenting - unless you believe money is more important than your child's wellbeing. 3) Saying the laws are unnecessary because most couples already choose shared parenting is like saying laws against homicide are unnecessary because most people choose not to kill others. You can read the entire article here.
July 2017 - A new law took effect in Kentucky making joint custody and equal parenting time a rebuttable presumption in temporary custody orders. Legally, this means that the 2 parent model is the default starting point and the judge must justify in writing an order of unequal custody during the divorce process. The law, HB 492, passed both houses of the legistature unanimously, reflecting the growing awareness that shared parenting is best. Although there is no such law yet regarding permanent custody orders, temporary custody orders often set a precedent that is followed in the permanent custody order. Of note, Arkansas law does not address temporary custody orders, creating an unregulated "free-for-all" during the divorce process with negative ramifications down the line. You can read more information on this topic here and here.
June 2017 - The Michigan Legislature is currently considering a bill that would require joint custody as well as prohibit a parent from moving over 80 miles from the other parent. Although early in the legislative process, HB 4691 passed committee by a vote of 6-3 and has been sent to the legislative floor for deliberation. The bill would require a judge to grant joint legal custody and substantially equal parenting time unless there is a preponderance of evidence of domestic violence. Evidence supporting the bill were statistics showing large county to county disparities of joint custody awards from 14% to 70%, with over 80% of primary custodians being mothers. The implication is that custody arrangements were more dependant on the judge in your county rather than the kind of parent you are. Not suprisingly, there has been a backlash from judges, family court employees, and the State Bar of Michigan, all of whom profit from the current adversarial family legal system. For more information, you can read a press release here and an editorial here.
December 2016 - A public policy poll in Maryland found that 79% of respondents felt that mothers and fathers should receive equal treatment by family courts in custody decisions. Additionally, 63% favored changing state laws to create a preference or presumption of equal time with each parent. Unfortunately, this stands in stark contrast to the custody laws in Maryland, which are even more antiquated than those in Arkansas. Maryland law has no policy statements whatsoever supporting shared parenting. As a result, mothers are awarded primary custody 65% of the time, fathers 13%, and joint custody in only 15%. Even with a change in public opinion, the family courts and lawyers will continue to engage in self-serving behavior that ultimately harms our children. A well-written editorial on the topic that shares our views can be found here.
August 2016 - Missouri HB 1550, publicized as a "shared parenting bill," took effect on August 28. The initial version of the bill generated publicity by setting a presumption of equal parenting and a clear way to address custody violations without an attorney. However, by the time it was passed, it did neither. The bill establishes guidelines for courts to follow and allows for shared custody, but only suggests "maximizing time" with each parent. It also provides an initial pathway for custody violations to be filed with the court without requiring an attorney, but does not specify how these are addressed. The only real effect of the bill is that it prevents courts from applying a default parenting plan and requires them to hear each case individually - a sad indictment of the family courts. We applaud Rep. Kathryn Swan for introducing the bill and hope that a more meaningful version will pass in the future. You can read more about this story here and here.
April 2016 - Florida Senate Bill 663 was passed by overwhelming majority by the state legislature before being vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott on April 15, 2016. The new law would have required judges to start with the premise of equal custody and time between parents before taking into consideration the other details of each case. The law would have also ended permanent alimony and set up a new system to establish alimony based on length of marriage and the income of both parties. Although receiving strong popular support, the bill was opposed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and many attorneys groups for obvious reasons. This bill was a step forward toward equality and its veto shows how money continues to triumph over the best interests of our children. You can read more about this story here and here.
January 2016 - Illinois Senate Bill 57 went into effect on January 1, 2016. This law overhauls the current custody system by eliminating "sole" and "joint" custody. Instead, the court will allocate parenting time and individual parenting responsibilities to each parent. One of the goals is to eliminate or minimize the problems associated with the standard winner-take-all approach to custody. Whether or not this will have a positive real-life impact toward family court reform and parental equality remains to be seen. If so, it may prove to be a model for other states such as Arkansas to follow. For two summaries and legal perspectives on this topic, you can read more here and here.
November 2015 - In another case of a child given up for adoption without the father's consent, Colby Nielsen of Utah had his 2 week old daughter Kaylee taken from him on November 18, 2015. Despite Colby being against the adotion and acting as the sole caregiver since Kaylee's birth, the mother was still able to give her up for adoption. Just as in Arkansas, this is legal in Utah because the parents were not married. Following news coverage of the story, the adoptive parents then backed out of the adoption and returned Kaylee to her mother - the same one who just signed away her rights to the child. Colby is currently fighting for custody of his daughter through the legal system. To follow this story, click here.
August 2015 - Rob Manzanares has been fighting for custody of his daugher since before she was born in 2007. Just prior to giving birth, his long-time girlfriend left their home in New Mexico for Utah. She then gave the child up for adoption to her sister and brother-in-law. Through fraud and deception, aided by unfair parental rights and adoption laws, this adoption was allowed to go through. Despite the fraudulent nature of the adoption being admitted in previous rulings, custody remained with the adoptive parents. After years of fighting, Mr. Manzanares won his appeal for custody of his daugher in August of 2015. For a news report on this story, click here. Mr. Manzanares's blog and story can be found here.
April 2015 - The Shared Parenting movement is gaining momentum across the country. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, lawmakers in 20 states are currently considering measures to change custody laws to maximize time with both parents. Measures being proposed in New York and Washington would establish a presumption of joint physical custody, meaning each parent be awarded equal time unless there is proof that this arrangement is not in the child's best interest.
June 2014 - Our neighboring state of Oklahoma has passed a bill that will protect the visitation rights of noncustodial parents. The bill provides for the noncustodial parent to file a claim directly with the court on a specific form provided by the court - without requiring an attorney. The matter is also required to be addressed in a timely fashion and specific punishments are detailed. This bill is considered one of the first of its kind and will hopefully serve as a template for the rest of the nation in protecting our children from parental alienation. You can read more about it here.