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December 22nd, 2011 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
There’s a new bill before the South Carolina Legislature that would create a rebuttable presumption of equally-shared parenting time when couples share legal custody of a child post-divorce.  Read about it here (Fox Charlotte, 12/18/11).

Here’s the text of South Carolina House Bill 4095.

If joint legal custody of a child is awarded to the parents, there is a rebuttable presumption that both parents have joint physical custody of the child. Joint physical custody of the child is defined as equal time-sharing. If a petition is filed challenging joint custody, the burden of overcoming the presumption rests on the parent challenging the presumption. The presumption may be overcome by demonstrating that joint physical custody would not be in the best interest of the child or by one parent waiving the presumption.

The person seeking to overcome the presumption would have to do so by clear and convincing evidence.  That standard falls above the ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard usually used in civil cases, and below that of proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ used in criminal cases.

Joint legal custody is ordered in most custody cases in which parents are deemed fit to care for children.

Now, we’ve seen many equally shared parenting bills come and go.  Many have solid support, but so far, not a single one has been passed by a state legislature and signed by the governor.  Despite their obvious fairness, despite their many benefits to children, those bills always fail.  They do so for a variety of reasons, or perhaps “excuses” is a better word.  Sometimes the claims by anti-dad forces that fathers pose unique dangers to children win the day; sometimes lawmakers seize on the idea that children would have to shift between households to excuse their ‘no’ votes.

That second one has always seemed an especially lame excuse for so dismally failing a state’s children.  The fact is that non-custodial parents usually have some sort of visitation rights, and that means that, every two weeks or so, the kids pack up and go to daddy.  So how much more packing up and moving would be involved if, instead of only staying with him two days, they stayed for two weeks?  Well, none actually.  The fact that opponents of children’s rights to time with their father pretend there would be speaks volumes about the sincerity of their claims.

So why might this bill’s fate be different?  Well, it seems that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley backs it.  We’ve never seen an equal parenting bill with the support of the state’s governor at this early stage. 

Does Haley mean it?  Will she throw her weight behind this bill?  Or will she sit back and let the bill take the usual course of dying in committee, the victim of smear tactics against fathers and imagined drawbacks of shared parenting.

Whatever the outcome of the South Carolina House Bill 4095, the final answer to the anti-dad crowd will come at the ballot box.  When those office holders who oppose children’s rights to their fathers start losing their reelection bids because fathers’ rights advocates mobilized against them, those shared parenting bills will start passing like a football team behind by 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Until then, we’ll see.

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