March, 18, 2014 by Aaron Bates, Chair, Executive Committee; and Mark Cyzyk, Member, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Maryland
National Parents Organization of Maryland recently submitted written testimony regarding two bills before the Maryland Legislature: SB1004, "Family Law — Children's Civil Rights — Equal Parenting Time", sponsored by State Senator C. Anthony Muse (Democrat, District 26, Prince George's County) and HB1440, "Family Law — Children's Civil Rights — Equal Parenting Time", sponsored by State Delegate Jill P. Carter (Democrat, District 41, Baltimore City). Both Senator Muse and Delegate Carter are proponents of joint legal and shared physical custody with roughly equal parenting time, and their respective bills (almost identical) seek to institute a rebuttable presumption of both based on the "best interest" of the child.
National Parents Organization of Maryland naturally supports this too. However, we feel that the proposed legislation does not go far enough. So, our written testimony included the following, items we'd like to see included in legislation in this area:
- The Court shall award custody based on what is in the best interest of the child.
- There shall be a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the child.
- There shall be a rebuttable presumption that shared physical custody, with each parent sharing roughly equal time with the child, is in the best interest of the child.
- In cases where it is determined that joint legal custody is not in the best interest of the child, the Court must specify the reason(s).
- In cases where it is determined that shared physical custody is not in the best interest of the child, the Court must specify the reason(s).
- In cases where significantly unequal physical custody is awarded, the Court must specify the reason(s). "Significantly unequal physical custody" shall be defined as a physical custody situation where there is a time differential between the parties equal to or greater than 10 percent of the child's time.
- In cases where sole physical custody is awarded to one of the parents, a preference should be to make the award to the parent who is most cooperative and will most likely support the non-custodial parent's continuing relationship with the child.
Various statutes in various states address some of these items, but to our knowledge, no state currently addresses all of them. We're hoping that Maryland, with the leadership of Senator Muse and Delegate Carter, might be the first!
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.