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March 3, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

According to this article, despite everything we’ve learned over the past couple of months about child custody in Nebraska, Senator Russ Karpisek’s shared parenting bill, LB 1000, has hit a wall in the Senate Judiciary Committee (Omaha World Herald, 2/28/14).

A state senator seeking compromise on a bill that would more equally divide parenting time for children in Nebraska divorce cases has so far been unsuccessful.

State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber told members of the Judiciary Committee he has been unable to work out the details on a proposal to fix the way courts award visitation in Nebraska.

He acknowledged Thursday that as his bill is written, it's unlikely to advance to the floor of the Legislature.

Legislative Bill 1000 also lacks a priority designation. With the legislative session half over and major bills yet to be considered, bills without priority labels are unlikely to be debated.

Apparently existing state law would create issues regarding how to calculate child support if both parents had equal or close-to-equal parenting time.

The primary sticking point is how to disconnect visitation time from child support payments, said Angela Dunne of Omaha, a divorce lawyer who has been working with the senator.

Under the current system, equal time arrangements would force parents into sharing every expense related to their children, which can lead to a high level of conflict and disagreement.

I would argue that the solution to that would be a joint account into which each parent periodically contributes the same amount of money and from which only child-related expenses can be withdrawn. It’s not a perfect plan, but it would solve most problems regarding expenditures for the child.

Still, Karpisek seems optimistic that he can arrive at compromise language that would satisfy opponents.

Karpisek said that he has been working with lawyers on both sides of the emotional issue of child custody and that they are close to reaching agreement.

In the recent past, I’ve wondered just what opponents of children maintaining real relationships with their fathers post-divorce would use to justify that opposition. After all, the State Court Administrator’s Office studied representative child custody cases over 10 years and its recently released report revealed that divorcing Nebraskans rarely even bring up issues of parental unfitness, child abuse, domestic violence and the like. Those were all issues used by opponents of fathers’ and children’s rights to resist shared parenting legislation. With those off the table, I wondered what was left? Now I know.

Opponents say that in cases involving domestic violence, equal parenting time arrangements can expose victims to more abuse. Others argue that equal parenting can expose children to more conflict when parents fight over nearly every child-rearing decision.

So on one hand they’re still riding the domestic violence horse that long ago went lame. The State Court Administrator’s Office study revealed that the issue of domestic violence wasn’t even mentioned in 94% of custody cases and of course was substantiated in only a fraction of the cases in which it was raised. (The report doesn’t mention the percentage of cases in which a claim of DV was found to be supported by clear and convincing evidence.)

And in any event, LB 1000 clearly allows judges to deviate from shared parenting if one party is found to have committed domestic violence or child abuse.

So the domestic violence argument is a non-starter.

As to parental conflict, the Court Administrator’s Office report also disposes of that. Again, like domestic violence, the report found astonishingly few cases in which there was substantiated “high conflict” between parents. It’s not because they didn’t try. The compilers of the report used an alarmingly broad definition of what constitutes high conflict, and even so, the issue of parental conflict following divorce or separation barely registered.

And, again like the issue of domestic violence, LB 1000 would in no way limit judges from issuing orders that would deal with parents who can’t get along.

So the answer to opponents’ claims about LB 1000 is that they’ve been addressed. There are no issues left. The opposition is out of ammo.

That’s why it’s sad that a quality journalist like Joe Duggan should include a sentence like this one in his article on Karpisek’s efforts to get his bill a hearing.

The bill would require judges to presume equal parenting times for children of divorce if both parents were found to be fit.

No, actually it doesn’t. Here’s the bill itself and it very plainly does no such thing. It “encourages” shared parenting and finds that shared parenting is “favored,” but it nowhere “requires” any judge anywhere any time to order shared parenting, much less equal time. Duggan’s statement plays into the hands of shared parenting opponents who’ve long claimed that such laws would “tie judges’ hands.” LB 1000 limits judges’ discretion not at all.

If Karpisek can hammer out language that’s agreeable to all, LB 1000 still has to make it out of the Judiciary Committee. Members who are on the fence are Brad Ashford ([email protected]), Amanda McGill ([email protected]), Al Davis ([email protected]) and Ernie Chambers ((402) 471-2612). Those four need to hear from you!

Please send an email to each urging them politely to vote LB 1000 out of committee so the citizens of Nebraska can at last have an up or down vote on one of the most important issues in our society today.

Shared parenting proponents need your help. Please contact the above four senators today.

Thanks for your assistance.

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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