For children of divorce, the concept of not having access to both parents is a crushing realization during an already stressful time in a child’s life. For the noncustodial parent of the child, this notion is a harsh reality that they have to live with.
They are forced to miss out on many of the quieter moments in a child’s daily life, like a child going off to school or a child brushing their teeth every morning and night. These small moments can be precious for a parent who feels like they do not get to spend enough time with their child.
Many states are attempting to change the notion of one parent having custodial rights over the other parent. Kentucky passed a law in 2017, creating a temporary joint custody and equal parenting time presumption. Florida also passed a law in 2017, creating a standard parenting time plan that includes established visitation times and encourages co-parents to work together to make a schedule to fit their busy lives.
Understanding the bill
Proposed by State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, this bill states that if the parties have entered into a parenting plan, it shall be presumed that the agreement is in the best interests of the child. Like many other states’ bills and laws related to shared parenting and child custody, this presumption may be overcome only by clear and convincing evidence that would allow the court to make a different order if the findings of fact prove that the parenting plan is not in the best interests of the child.
The parenting plan previously mentioned promotes the involvement of both parents. The desire to promote equal time between both parents is driven by the amount of research that states how much a child benefits from having both parents in their life.
Support of the bill
This bill is being backed by many parents who are expressing the hardships that they went through in child custody cases, as well as national organizations like the National Parents Organization and Dads Care 2, a fathers advocacy group. They believe in a child’s need of having two parents.
“We need to start at a position of assuming, the going-in assumption, that both parents are good parents,” Paul Schwenneson, of the National Parents Organization said to Fox4 News in Kansas City, Mo. “You’re innocent until proven guilty, and the assumption should be equality.”
The hope for the bill is to prevent some of the recurring problems that can occur in parenting plans.
“This parenting bill will eliminate a lot of the parenting issues that go on in our families on a day-to-day basis,” Dennis Fontelroy, of Dads Care 2 said to the Lawrence Journal-World. “Because of the influence that fathers have, that both parents have, equal parenting is really the key to minimizing a lot of mental health issues.”
Criticism and concern
However, this bill also has garnered much criticism from judges and lawyers who feel that it may set up situations that have the potential of endangering children. Critics have spoken out against the bill stating how the presumption of equal time can be used to exert power over weaker parents to the detriment of children.
They also have stated how this bill may be used against parents working together to come to an agreement. He feels that a parent who wants equal time has less cause to work with the other parent because if they do not agree, a judge must presume that they will receive equal time.
Additionally, domestic violence awareness groups and women’s groups have expressed their disapproval of the bill, stating that it attempts to force timesharing on all families regardless of the circumstances.
While the concerns regarding sweeping measures applying to all families, regardless of individual situations, are valid, they fail to realize the measures that the bill already has taken to protect children from potential danger.
The bill states that the presumption can be overcome by clear and convincing evidence. This clause gives attorneys, lawyers, and competent parents the opportunity to protect the children caught in the crossfires of bad situations.
The bill still resides in the Kansas state Senate.
If you are a Kansas parent and are concerned about your child custody situation, contact a Cordell & Cordell attorney and set up your consultation.