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Presumption for Equal Parenting Time

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With the 2012 legislative session kicking off, once again we will face a bill containing a presumption that divorcing or separating "parents shall share time with the child as equally as possible." While there are special circumstances where splitting their time equally between two households may be what is best for the children, that arrangement should not, and cannot, be the default. The only outcome on which all social scientists agree is that exposure to inter-parental conflict is harmful for children. This bill would force more exchanges and more communication between divorced or separated parents, greatly increasing the chances that the children will witness ongoing conflict.

Whatever biases various blogs and advocacy groups may perceive to exist in the world of Family Court, the proper way to address them is not with blunt, legislative action. And by blunt, we mean a law that states that the joint custody presumption "may only be overcome by demonstrating an unfitness of the parent being challenged that would cause substantial harm to the children."

Under the proposed legislation, unless a parent is proven to be substantially harmful to the children, each parent will have essentially equal parenting time with the children. The bill as presented in 2011 went further to state, "Allegations of substance abuse, mental illness, spousal or child abuse or neglect, and any subsequent issuance of protective orders are not sufficient to cause cessation or reduction in parent and child contact. Only written findings of substantiated abuse are sufficient to allow the court to deviate from the joint physical custody arrangement and award physical custody to one parent."

So, despite the children being under three years of age, or one parent moving a substantial distance from the marital home, or the children participating in multiple extra-curricular activities, or the parties never agreeing on a single decision in the children's lives, or one parent traveling extensively for work, under the proposed law, the Court shall Order the children to spend substantially equal time with each parent, if requested by either party.

If anything above raises the little hairs on the back of your neck, we strongly encourage you to contact your local representatives in the state legislature to discuss this proposed legislation. As the law stands now, the Court must focus on the thirteen statutory factors that delineate the best interests of the children, giving no greater weight to one any factor than the others. With proper guidance and counsel through the system, the current law keeps the focus in custody/parenting-time disputes exactly where it should be . . . on the children.

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=518.17

 

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