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Januray 29, 2016
By Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The National Parents Organization’s Missouri affiliate has submitted identical shared parenting bills in the state’s House and Senate. NPO member Linda Reutzel reports that she’s satisfied with the bills and has high hopes for passage. Here’s House Bill 2055.

The bills would do four things. First, and most importantly, the bills require family courts to presume that equal parenting (or as close to equal as possible) is in children’s best interests. The standard parenting time order would become alternating weeks for each parent unless the parents submit an alternative plan.

Second, the definition of “joint physical custody” would be amended to include “approximate and reasonably equal periods of time” in each parent’s care.

Those two requirements would mean that children have as close to equal parenting time with each parent as is possible under the family’s circumstances. Taken together, they promote equal parenting without forcing a rigid, literal 50/50 arrangement that may not be appropriate for all parents and that judges hesitate to order. Social science indicates that, when children spend at least 33% of their time with each parent, the benefits of shared parenting tend to be realized, so HB 2055 would accomplish that.

Third, the bill would permit, but not require, judges to find that a second or subsequent violation of an existing order of custody or visitation constitutes a material change in circumstances that can give rise to a modification of the existing order. That’s an effort to put teeth into parenting time orders that parents often violate with little or no action from the court.

Finally, the bill would allow a judge to schedule a hearing on a motion to modify an existing order of custody and/or visitation on an expedited basis. Too often in family courts, justice delayed is justice denied. When one parent refuses to abide by the order of the court, it unfairly prejudices the other parent and restricts that parent’s access to the child. If it takes too long to get a hearing, that lack of access often becomes a fait accompli that damages the parent-child relationship. Expedited hearings could go a long way toward ameliorating that situation.

If you are in Missouri and would like to help get this bill passed, contact Linda Reutzel.

Well done NPO, Missouri!

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